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15 Meter Nationals - Aug 9 Report

2010 15-Meter National Soaring Championships – Uvalde, TX

Report for 9 August



Today was a rest day, which most pilots here felt they’d earned by dint of many hours and miles of hard flying.  Soaring conditions looked good and tows were available, but we had no takers – all opted for ground-based forms of rest.


Birdwatching is something of a south Texas specialty – for a decent number of Mexican species, the northern limit of their normal range extends into Texas.  I spent some time yesterday searching for these and other interesting species and was able to see a Vermillion flycatcher, a Golden-fronted woodpecker and a Ladder-backed woodpecker.  (I’d already racked up the Black-bellied whistling duck, seen near the Uvalde airport.)  A good number of other interesting birds were also checked off.


Yesterday’s dinner at Concan was a big success.  We ate at picnic tables on a shaded lawn overlooking the Rio Frio (which in a dry August is not especially frio, though undeniably scenic and obviously popular for swimming).  It was another hot day (high temperature around 102), but by now most here are growing accustomed to the violent heat, and in the shade with a modest breeze it’s getting on toward pleasant.


The after-dinner event was out of the ordinary: a visit to the Annadale Ranch bat cave.  This limestone cave in the Hill Country is summer home to around 10 million Mexican free-tailed bats.  Each evening toward sunset they begin to stir, swirl around in the cave entrance, then depart for a night of insect hunting which tracking has shown may take them 50 miles from home and to altitudes of 10,000’


Their departure from the cave spans 3 hours, which means an average of around 1000 bats per second are flying by, 15 feet over the heads of several dozen astonished human observers (peak rates are probably triple the average).  In all, around 150 tons of bats will consume around 100 tons of insects before returning to spend the day in subterranean darkness (some stragglers arrive home well after sunrise – the return flight is not as concentrated).


Several Swainson’s hawks were seen hanging around for a tasty evening bat snack, but the total taken this way was probably less than a dozen (around one in a million).


All agreed that this was a remarkable spectacle and a highlight of their trip to south Texas.  Put this on your list of must-see natural phenomena.


Competition resumes tomorrow.  Current weather forecasts suggest we’ll have three more days of (probably rather good) flying.


 – John Good

Posted: 8/9/2010


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