Intern adventure thumbnailJoin Erin, BCI's newest intern, as she visits Bracken Cave to meet the 15 million bats that call the cave home.

05.19.16
Bat flying in the sky
The bats start flying overhead Credit: Erin Ziegler

Driving over the rough gravel road I was starting to wonder if I had made a wrong turn. I had never been to Texas before, let alone Bracken Cave, and I couldnt be sure what I was getting myself into as I made my way deeper and deeper into the thick country brush. The evening sky had been dyed a stormy gray as I crunched down the pot marked path in the company car, lovingly dubbed the bat-mobile, until at long last I found what Id been looking for.

A cheerful white sign from Bat Conservation International greeted me as I pulled through the gate and eventually into the parking lot at Bracken Cave. Fran Hutchins, the director of the cave, welcomed me to Bracken as I joined the cluster of eager BCI members that had already gathered to see the famous migrating Mexican free-tailed bats.

Since coming to Texas for my internship with BCI, everyone had told me about the bats at Bracken. I had been promised bats blotting out the sky, but I couldnt be sure what to expect as I followed Fran to the edge of the cliff above the cave

Then bats.

I had arrived just in time as thousands and thousands of little brown bodies began pouring out of the cave mouth, circling around the valley like water in a drain, climbing higher and higher until the burst into the open sky. Before we knew it there were bats everywhere. Soaring overhead, exploding from the cave, and braking off from the bat tornado in huge undulating ribbons.

We stood awestruck, cameras flashing, as the bats circled around the cave mouth, trying to gain enough altitude to escape into the open sky. The dizzying vortex of bats flew around and around and around before they even reached eyelevel with the astounded spectators.

Bracken Bats with Fran Hutchins
Fran Hutchins talks to us about the Bats Credit: Erin Ziegler

Under the sound of people talking and the rustle of trees there was the ever present chitter of the bats. Not loud, but an ever present chirp that filled the air. A woman next to me suggested cupping my ears to listen and, feeling a little silly, I tried it. Every wing beat of the never ending tornado of bats filled my ears with sound. Like listening to an audience applauding from the next room of, the muffled thump thump thump of their wing beats was undeniably cool.

And it didnt stop.

After a while Fran got up and, with millions of bats as his own personal backdrop, began to tell us about the cave and its denizens. Perfectly cool in front of the flapping waves, he narrated their migration and maternal habits in his easy accent. Once he had finished answering questions Fran directed us back the way we came and away from the cave still bursting with bats.

 

Erin Ziegler
Erin Ziegler Credit: Erin Ziegler

Walking under the curtains of bats we came to the open field by the cars to see the bats fly away. Watching the thick ribbons snake across the sky like streamers caught in the wind we could see them go from thick clouds to distant wisps of smoke on the horizon.

For nearly an hour the bats practically exploded from Bracken leaving me absolutely awestruck. Its one thing to hear about the bats at Bracken, but to see the unending stream of flight is not something anyone can put into words. Seeing the over fifteen million of bats emerge in their own personal bat-nado was certainly worth the drive to Bracken.

 

If you would like become a BCI member and visit Bracken Cave CLICK HERE.