Return to Carlsbad Caverns for the bat flight

May 20, 2007

After our tour through Carlsbad Caverns we drove the twenty miles to the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico for supper and then headed back to Carlsbad Caverns to watch the bat flight at sundown.

I talked them into stopping at the location of our second stop this morning to have one more look at the beautiful cactus flowers.

I scrambled up the inviting hillside again to try some more closeups of the flowers.
I was concentrating so much on the spectacular cactus flowers above that I didn't notice that I was recording a board meeting of the local cactus beetles on a cactus bud in the left part of my frame.
I ran across this small egg-shaped flowering cactus that I had totally missed the first time up the hill. The whole cactus was only about six inches tall with a bloom 2-3 inches across.
Brenda called to me from the base of the hill that she was seeing something red above me and to my left on the crest of the ridge where I had not been. I scrambled around there and found this spectacular display of rose colored cactus blooms. I would certainly have hated to miss this - one of the most outstanding views of the day.
This was another sample of this rose flowered cactus about ten feet away.
It was hard to tear myself away from God's idyllic floral settings, but Brenda, Phyllis and Edgar were waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, and we had a date with the bats.
We drove on up the the top and made our way to the natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns where they had constructed a rock ampitheater for the observation of the nightly bat flight. The ranger gave a good overview of the different kinds of bats and their benefits in pollination and insect control. He told us that these Mexican free tailed bats wintered in Mexico and that this colony numbered around 300,000.
The actual bat flight was much more dramatic than I had expected. At about 7:45 local time the bats began boiling out of the cave entrance, which I would estimate at about 60 feet across. The whole opening filled with bats, spiraling upward like an animated tornado, and when the spiral reached the top of the wall, a stream of bats would spill over the edge and stream off toward the southern horizon. We watched the stream of bats top the ridge to the south, dividing into two streams as they reached the top of the ridge. We were told that they visited three local rivers and would eat something like three times their body weights in insects during the night, returning to the cave just before sunrise.
Farewell to Brownfield

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