I got into Concan in the Texas Hill Country late on Thursday afternoon for the first Women Who Wander Outdoor Retreat over the weekend. I was leading hikes and speaking so I arrived the night before most everyone else. As I was chatting with the organizers, I mentioned I might go see the bats….10 to 12 million of them. All of them said “Go!” It might seem batty, but it’s a mesmerizing, fascinating experiences as I found out that night looking into a cave and watching bats swirl and fly away above me.
The Frio Bat Flight is a unique bat experience in that the cave is on a private ranch which has been family owned since 1874. As you drive down the dirt road, you night encounter cattle as I did. I was supposed to get there at 6:30pm to caravan in, but I was running late so did the drive up to cave by myself. As I walked up to where the guide and about 25 other folks had gathering to see the bats take flight, the sun was starting to go down.
It wasn’t long and the sky turned into a watercolor of hues of sunflower, tangerine, and burnt orange.
As we waited for the mass exodus from the cave, there were a few cave swallows and canyon wrens that darted in and out of the cave. The bats are about a half mile back in the cave, while the birds are in the first chamber. As we waited the guide, Bain Walker, was a wealth of knowledge about all things bat. Frio Cave is home to the second largest population of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world open to the public. It’s also a maternity cave and bats return to give birth to their pups each spring. You can only see them March to September since the bats fly south for the winter. Bain shared all kinds of bat facts with us like there are 3 species of bats in the Frio Cave, 34 in Texas, 42 in the United States and 1050 species in the world. Hunger, light, barometric pressure and temperature are all reasons why bats fly out of the cave.
As dusk was fading into night, we were beginning to wonder if the bats were going to come out. At 7:47pm there was a rush of birds flying out of the cave then a strong ammonia stench wafted through the air. The first bats, or scouts, emerged from the cave. It quickly went from a couple of bats to a swarm circling up from the cave. As the bats swirled then flew off like they were on a train in the sky, a couple of raptors would dive bomb the line for dinner. It was an incredible, yet freaky sight to see. Bats don’t care for humans so you don’t have to be creeped out waiting them fly over you. Nature never ceases to amaze me and that night I found millions of bats taking flight fascinating. It can take up to three hours for all the bats to come out. After about 15-20 minutes, I decided I’d had enough of the pungent aroma and headed back down to my car and off to my cabin at Frio Country Resort.