PEARLAND, Texas — There’s a day to celebrate just about anything, including bats.
"Bats kind of get a bad rap," admitted Suzanne Jurek, a volunteer with the Houston Area Bat Team.
They only come out at night, which makes them mysterious. Vampire movies don’t exactly help either.
"These guys are such an important part of our environment," Jurek said, gesturing toward Fite Bridge. "This bridge has a colony of Mexican free-tail bats. Previously, we’ve had up to 10,000 bats in this bridge. We’re not up to that size right now, but it will rebuild and we’ll have that size again at some point."
The bats live in the crevices of the bridge, and it's easy to tell which ones are really full. White stains and wet spots are urine stains. Down below each crevice, you'll find piles of guano.
"These guys eat so many insects in a night. For example, the Waugh colony is about 250,000 to 300,000 bats and they eat two tons of insects every night," explained Jurek. "This is going to be a smaller colony eating a smaller amount of insects, but they provide amazing pest control for us."
A viewing platform, which is on Magnolia Parkway near the Delores Fenwick Nature Center, is the safest spot to watch the bats emerge.
Just after sunset, the entire colony will drop out of the crevices to go find dinner. Depending on the size of a given colony, its nightly exit can be picked up on radar.
"They can see at sunset these bursts of yellow and red that will dissipate. Those are bat emergences," Jurek said.
Volunteers at the Houston Area Bat Team are starting a project that compares images to city maps. The goal is to pinpoint where other colonies are in our area.
She knows it’s a hard sell, but Jurek said more bats are a good thing.
"There are bats that are fruit-eaters that are great seed dispersers. There are bats that are pollinators. They’re nectar eaters," she said. "And, if you like a tasty margarita every now and then, you’re going to really like bats because bats are what pollenate the agave plant, which is used to make tequila."
You can learn more about the bats that call Houston home at weekly "Bat Chats" hosted by Houston Area Bat Team volunteers. Check here for dates and times.