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Going Batty at Sunset at Waugh Drive Bat Colony in Houston, Texas

Not every city can claim a bat colony, but Houston can.  At the Waugh Drive Bat Colony at sunset, a cloud of bats takes flight, almost nightly.  More than 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from underneath the bridge at sunset for their nightly flight to feed on insects.

Bet you didn’t know bats show up on radar, just like rain, as the colony emerges.  I first saw this phenomenon while working as a television meteorologist in San Antonio with the bats at Bracken Cave.

At the Waugh Bridge, the bats prefer to emerge from the east side of the bridge and usually spin into a whirling vortex to deter predators.

I went to the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony on a Friday night in August for a shoot for Houston Life, the lifestyles show I host in Houston.  Sweating and laughing, my co-host Derrick, producers Erin and Stephanie, along with photographer Sophia headed under the bridge.  Of course I had worry about guano dropping…along with Derrick trying to scare me with imaginary bats in my hair.

Over 250,000 bats were all snuggled in the last moments of their daylight slumber inside the bridge when we started to notice a few of them squirming out of cracks and then a couple taking flight.  We found out these first bats to emerge are the scouts reading the winds and weather.  They have to dodge the birds waiting to dive bomb in and swoop them up for dinner.

Some Friday nights during the year, mainly in summer, there are volunteers who share their knowledge of the bats with the crowd.

As the sun was setting farther and farther in the western sky, it was go time for the bats to take flight.

I’d never seen anything like it – 250,000 bats swirling in a vortex above my head.  Then groups of bats would spin off from the parent vortex for a nightly flight that can go up to 50 miles.

The bats fly year round, but one note – when temperatures are below 50 degrees or rainy, the bats may or may not take flight.

On a hot summer night, it’s a sight to behold.  Plus, the batty entertainment is free!

Check out the story we did for Houston Life.

Jennifer Broome has also visited Frio Bat Cave near Concan in the Texas Hill Country.

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