Summer sunsets bring cooler temperatures to the people who make their homes in the hot Sonoran Desert. It is the time each day to again safely emerge back into the out-of-doors to take a walk, an evening visit to the closest ice cream store or even to take the whole family to a drive-in movie over at the ol’ Scottsdale Six. Yet for those looking for a different summer adventure, say a wildlife adventure, then summer sunsets are the perfect times to watch the nightly explosion of Mexican free-tailed bats returning to their nightly hunting territory in the desert sky.
A total of twenty-eight species of bats occur in Arizona, but the free-tailed is one of the most common. With a body length of 3 to 5 inches and a wingspan up to 12 inches, these dark brown bats form huge colonies in caves and under bridges and culverts found in the urban environment. Each evening they re-enter the sky to feed on literally tons of moths, mosquitoes and other night flying insects. Each June, the female Mexican free-tailed bat gives birth to a single pup.
The Arizona Fish & Game Department has created an ideal urban bat-viewing area for the Arizona public near the intersection of Camelback Road and 40th Street right next to the office complex at 5080 North 40th Street. Here, just 20 yards west of the parking garage, and 20 feet north of the Arizona Canal, is a large flood control tunnel that is ground zero each summer evening for the Mexican fee-tailed bats’ nightly rush back into the night time sky.
Special bat-viewing signs teach urban visitors about their wildlife neighbors hoping to help Valley residents to learn to co-exist with our urban wildlife and to create more chances to learn in and about the Arizona out-of-doors. This special viewing area was built using Arizona Heritage Funds.
The Camelback Road and 40th Street area have many wonderful restaurants including Chelsea’s, located right near the Camelback & 40th Street intersection. Dinner at Chelsea’s and a Mexican fee-tailed bat show at sunset; now that is a special way to spend a Sonoran Desert summer evening.
The GPS coordinates of the Arizona Game and Fish bat viewing area are N33° 26.870¢ W112°05.590¢. For more information about Arizona bats, visit the following web site www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_bats.shtml .