Thursday, September 8, 2016

Number 64: Old Tunnel State Park

It had been a long time since we added a new park to our list.  Last weekend we rectified the situation and hit the road with our friends Ed and Diane.  After some good BBQ with more friends and a shopping trip to Fredricksburg, we headed over to Old Tunnel State Park.

This male Lesser Goldfinch was a new bird for me.
This was the first time Diane and Ed had joined us for one of our park trips.  In fact, a random Facebook post by Diane about bats over the little league baseball field is what inspired this trip.

Viewing the bats is kinda what you do there and it is best at this time of year before they all leave to winter in Mexico.  It is a very small park with a 1/2 mile hiking trail so bat viewing really is the main event.

Black-chinned Hummingbird
That said, with so much time to kill and a desire to see more of the park, we ventured down the trail.

Black-crested Titmouse
No matter how short the trail we always seem to see things of interest.

The mouth of the tunnel.
The bats were active well before the took flight from the tunnel.

They only allow 70 people on the lower deck to view the bets leaving the tunnel to eat at night so we arrived early.  Of course when we first claimed our seats there was still plenty of light for my camera to operate well.

The Ranger gave a short informative talk about the bats and instructions to sit quietly when they began to fly as not to disturb them.

Shortly after 8 as all light for chances of good photographs was fading, they began to emerge from the tunnel by the thousands.  3 million Mexican freet-ailed bats call the tunnel home and it is an impressive sight as they rush from the tunnel, down the creek, and up in a swirl like a living tornado.

The experience was amazing.  After watching mesmerized for 20 minutes, we found it just too dark to see and we headed out.   And like the Ranger said, now I have a desire to see more parks with bats.  Congress Avenue Bridge?  Waugh Bridge?  Maybe even Bracken Cave?  I'm ready!