Thursday, October 08, 2009

EMPS: The River, the Bats and the Bridge

What shall I show you for Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #58: Bridges And Walkways? In past Round Robin Challenges and other entries, I've already posted photos of my favorite old bridge in downtown Tucson and the walkway beside it, the Diamondback Bridge and the walkway leading off from that, the little blue bridge over the Alamo Wash, a stone bridge in Sabino Canyon built by the CCC, the bridge over Pantano Wash during the monsoon, and the bridge with the stylized lizards on it. Most recently I showed you just one shot from the hundred or so I took of the underside of the bridge over the Rillito at Campbell Ave on Bat Night. I think this is my cue to show you more from that event.

Just an ordinary overpass, seemingly, except for an extraordinary sky.
From the Picasa album Bat Night 2009

Batman makes a personal appearance on the walkway along the river's north edge.

Thousands of people gather in the riverbed. The river is dry most of the year.

Once upon a time, the Rillito was a "real" river. As recently as the 1930s, I think, there was water in it year round. Then people came, watered their families and their livestock and irrigated their fields.

Balloons represent the falling water table.

When air conditioning hit the market in the 1940s, Tucson's population exploded and the water table dropped precipitously. Now there's only water in the river after a major rain storm, or when whatever snow falls on Mount Lemmon melts away again. During the summer monsoon, though, a storm can cause a major flash flood to fill the river and others like it, washing away the occasional car and, at least once down near Marana, a building.

People costumed as bats.

But this was September, and the monsoon was over, making the riverbed a safe place to gather. Bat Night is a chance for people to see bats, real and otherwise, and to learn the history of the river and what humans have done to it. Part of the event involved these folks, rather bizarrely costumed as bats.

People watching real bats.

The main attraction of the night was a colony of about 40,000 Mexican free-tailed bats, mostly female, flying out from under the bridge at sunset for a night on the town. As the name implies, they spend their winters in Mexico, but they migrate north to Tucson to breed. They eat mosquitoes and other bugs, and are thus highly beneficial from humans' point of view.

Bats take to the skies for a good meal.

A speaker from the Rillito River Project outline's the river's sad history.

Members of the departing crowd cross the bridge at sunset.

Unlike Carly, who just get some great ones at the zoo, I never got a really good or close-up shot of the bats. But Bat Night was still an amazing and visual experience.



Carly said...

Oh my, if anything could get me to come to Arizona, it would probably be this! LOL. I LOVE it!! See, 2 exclamation points!!


Jama said...

I love that first and the last shot, awesome shot!

Did Batman forget to bring Robin along? :p