Our First activity of the 2012/13 school year was a kayaking trip with Texas River School to see the bats at Congress Bridge from the water. 23 kids and 21 parents arrived at the dock at 6:30pm and loaded into kayaks. We paddled down Lady Bird Lake towards Congress Ave just as the sun was setting. The weather was perfect and the birds were abundant. One family even saw a Kingfisher – a beautiful bird that is fairly hard to spot in TX. The only unfortunate part was paddling through the huge amount of Hydrilla in the lake and the strange trash items stuck in it that occasionally thumped the bottom of the boat. We had a little unofficial contest to see who could find the strangest trash stuck in the plants.
One pair of girls found a boot and a hoola hoop. I saw a 2.5 ft alligator gar laying partially exposed on top of the dense plant growth – in the middle of the lake. The hydrilla did provide a nice sunning spot for the turtles that allowed us to see lots of them easily. Other than the sections of dense plants that rose all the way to the water’s surface, it was a beautiful time to be out on the river.
After about 45 minutes of paddling, we reached the Congress Bridge just in time to see the bats emerging. They were leaving the bridge in waves as I paddled up to the group.
We had expected to wait for 20 minutes to see the bats after we arrived at the bridge, but the bats were already emerging as we paddled up. Mexican Freetailed Bats eat insects and during times of draught, they have to range farther from their home to find enough insects to eat. When rain is abundant, so are insects; and when puddles are few, mosquitos and other insects are also few. So, the bats have to work harder and fly farther to find food. We relaxed in our kayaks as we watched the bats fly out and watched the sun set. Just as downtown became fully lit, we started to make our way back to Texas Rowing Center.
As you might imagine, a bunch of elementary and middle school kids got a kick out of rowing 1-2 miles back in complete darkness. The TRS had given the kids blinky lights to clip to their life jackets, but it was still very dark.
After some racing, splashing, and quite a bit of star gazing out on the water, we made it back to the dock with all 44 people safely. It was a great way to start the year and we would like to thank Texas River School for making it possible!