Bat watching in Hemet


Every summer day at dusk, thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats blast out from their perches under the Bautista Creek flood control channel in Valle Vista, near Hemet in Riverside County. People have noticed and gather beside an orange grove for the evening shows. There's some nuance to what's going on, SoCal Wild reports. Excerpt:

Home to the largest bat colonies in the area, this nightly bat swarm is one of Southern California’s amazing natural wonders.

Valle Vista’s bats haven’t achieved the notoriety of Austin, Texas’ Congress Avenue Bridge (those too are Mexican free-tailers), and maybe that’s a good thing. The easy good-natured camaraderie of fellow bat watchers (some bring folding chairs and snacks), the unmarked location, the agricultural small-town road – all make sharing anticipation with fellow strangers a goose-pimple experience.

The bats are only in town for the summer which makes their appearance this evening all the more extraordinary. They are migratory critters, arriving in SoCal in late May/June to mate and to raise their offspring. In fact, the bridge is a maternity ward with mothers and pups; females only have one baby per season and those youngsters are ready to fly 4-5 weeks after birth. Males are off in bachelor colonies nearby, and many theorize they hang out in local caves (better known as bat man caves?)

When the fall cold hits (usually late September/October), all bats return to their Mexican caves and dream again of the Californian insects come the following summer.

“They’ve been recorded there since the 1990s,” says Dan Taylor, a bat biologist from Bat Conservation International who adds that it’s not just this bridge, but two others that the free-tailers use for their summer vacation. All in all, it’s estimated that more than 20,000 bats are part of this extraordinary colony.

bats-inhemet-socalwild.jpgThere's video of one of the sunset displays at the SoCal Wild website.

More by Kevin Roderick:
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