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Going Batty

If  you happento cross the Yolo Causeway at dusk, you might experience a moment resembling a scene in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Only the black swarm flying from the bridge does not contain birds. They are bats. Within the crevices of the bridge which connects West Sacramento and Davis lives one of the largest colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats in California.

It’s no wonder they do so well here. Bats need to eat a lot of insects each night for their survival. The floodplain under the causeway, where rice is grown during the summer, is practically a mosquito buffet. When it’s time to eat, the bats all leave the crevices together. Those at one end of the colony begin flying along the underside of the bridge, picking up more and more bats along the way. For some reason they have chosen a particular tree which stands near the bridge as their exit, as if the tree marks the opening of their cave. Once they reach the tree they change course, leaving the causeway and heading out over the fields. The effect is like watching a ribbon of bats stream out from the freeway into the night sky.

I was fortunate to get a great view of this bat exodus last year, thanks to the Yolo Basin Foundation. Luckily there is still an opportunity for you to watch as well. On twelve separate evenings between May and September the Yolo Basin Foundation offers the Bat Walk and Talk. The evening begins with a 45-minute slideshow presentation. A bat specialist offers information on the different species of bats as well as some bat myths and truisms. For example, did you know the bat is more closely related to a cow than a mouse? During my visit two bats who are unable to return to the wild were available for participants to see close up. After the 45-minute presentation we were off to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to get the best view of these mammals in flight.

My son, who was four years old at the time, joined me on this experience. He absolutely loved the evening’s events and to this day mentions it when we drive along the causeway. I was concerned about the idea of sitting through a 45-minute presentation with my four-year-old. However alongside the presenter, who was quite interesting to listen to, was a screen showing life-sized pictures of bats. My little one was hooked from beginning to end. Even if you do bring a child who gets squirmy in a chair, it’s easy to discretely slip out of the room to look at displays in the room next door and still hear the guide’s information.

These classes fill up quickly, so I suggest you register online for an upcoming class immediately if you are interested. Tickets are $10 per adult plus a $2 ticket processing fee. Children 16 and under are free. To avoid being part of the bugs’ buffet, don’t forget to bring a jacket and some bug spray.

You can check out more trip ideas at www.trippingwithkids.com

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