Monday, July 19, 2010

Phoenix Bat Colony

I found an article on AZCentral the other day called "50 Must-See Hidden Gems in Greater Phoenix." One of the gems is a colony of 5,000 Mexican free tail bats that live in a diversion tunnel for the Arizona Canal. It's near the corner of 40th St and Camelback Road. There's a similar bat colony in Tucson under the Campbell Street Bridge over the Rillito Wash that we've seen before. Seeing thousands of bats take flight at the same time is pretty awesome.

The Phoenix bats are a bit tougher to get to. It's about a half-mile round trip walk along a path that runs along the canal. That's not a long walk, but walking along a dark path in Phoenix at night makes it feel pretty long, though it seems like a nice enough part of town. Also, the Phoenix area is a heat island, so, unlike Tucson, it doesn't cool down properly at night. It was still a 107 degrees as we walked the canal path at sundown. This is because of all the man-made materials that trap the heat during the day and release it slowly at night. Overused water (wasted water) has contributed to raising the dew point in the valley, making it feel even hotter. The city is quite a bit hotter than the desert at night. Tucson has desert landscaping and city planning that minimize this effect.

Oddly enough, though we went on a Saturday night and the location was just featured on the Arizona Republic website, we had the place to ourselves. As we approached the colony, hundreds of bats and a fair number of nightjars were swooping along the canal eating insects. If you look closely at the photo above, there are some blurry spots on the water and those are the bats.

Here's a couple more photos from the area.
phoenix sundown
Phoenix path

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