Looking out across the vista of rolling hills, it is hard to imagine that just below, in a disused railway tunnel, over a million bats have colonized and would soon be emerging for their evening meal. Before the end of June more than 3 million Mexican Free Tailed Bats had lived in their man-made cave, but the female bats left to give birth elsewhere.
The Old Tunnel is 11 miles from Fredericksburg and the area is maintained by Old Tunnel Wildlife Management. The tunnel was excavated for a railway tunnel but the trains are long gone.
At 9:00 p.m. as dusk fell over the old tunnel, a few bats flew out. Above us the sounds of cicadas reached a crescendo. Soon the bats were like a swarm, swirling in the shape of a tornado. Barely visible until they rose above the trees, the bats continued to fly from the tunnel for more than thirty minutes, bringing with them a smell that I can only describe as powdery. Fireflies flashed among the dense brush as the bats rushed out looking for insects and water.
What an amazing experience.