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The Thundering Herd-June 2019

May was an exciting time for all of us here at Caprock Canyons State Park.  Even more wildflowers began to bloom, we started to see some wet weather, Lake Theo caught some water, and there were several college, school, and civic groups that came to experience the park.  Caprock Canyons hosted our annual “Caprock Campers” program early this year in the hopes of avoiding the sometimes dangerously high temperatures of the deep summer months and it turned out to be a great success.  10 students of the Valley School 5th grade class joined us for the program and had a blast learning about the natural and cultural resources of Caprock Canyons.  Of course, swimming in Lake Theo was the unanimous answer each student gave about what their favorite experience was in the park after the program was over.  Caprock Campers is an incentive program for the Valley School 5th graders to complete their Accellerated Reading points in class.  If they get them all, they are eligible to attend the program.

Caprock also had their first ever “Caprock Open House” event.  This event highlights the diverse resources of the park from its history to its native wildlife and everything in between!  Various living history demonstrations were presented as well as live prairie dogs and bats, talks about the park’s dark sky, plants, bison, and everything that makes Caprock a special place to conserve and protect!  We hope that visitors and students came away with a renewed sense of stewardship and appreciation for these resources because of the event.  This event would not have been possible without the unwaivering help from many volunteers and experts.  So, if you were a part of our Caprock Open House event and you’re reading this blog, please know that we are sincerely appreciative of you!  Here’s a picture of Texas Tech student Emma Kunkel who is studying the bats of Clarity Tunnel as she talks to a group of students during the Caprock Open House event.

Emma Kunkel with a Mexican Free-tailed bat

Memorial Day Weekend gave us a bit of a surprise when the weather turned a little sketchy.  However, campgrounds in the park were still full and when the weather cooperated, visitors fully enjoyed the day.  There were more visitors enjoying fishing, swimming, and kayaking in Lake Theo than we had seen in quite a while on that particular weekend!  Here’s some information on what’s coming up in the park for the month of June!

Summer of the Bat!

Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21st, but that’s not stopping these bats!  Beginning in May, if you’re paying close attention, you can see these magnificent creatures come to life beneath a setting Caprock sun as they go out for their nightly feast.  And, they’ll be here all summer!  Caprock is home to a variety of different bat species but the most common species is the Mexican Free-tailed bat that travels to Mexico during their winter migration and then back to Texas and other southern states for the summer.  You can simply be outside in the park to see some of these night flying critters, but if you want to see a whole colony of emerging Mexican Free-tails, you’ll want to join us for our summer “Bat Tours”!

Ranger Recommendation:  Join us for the “Bat Tours”

Bat tours are an amazing, one of a kind experience where you can witness the emergence flight of approximately half-a-million Mexican Free-tailed bats from historic Clarity Tunnel!  During the tours, visitors are taken in our park van, aka the “bat mobile”, down a scenic portion of the Caprock Canyons Trailway to our destination spot….  One of the last remaining railroad tunnels in Texas known as Clarity Tunnel where the bats reside!  The Caprock Canyons Trailway is an abandoned railroad bed of the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railway turned rails to trails system.  Also during the tours, the unique history of the railroad will be discussed and visitors are offered a spectacular view of the Caprock escarpment and its wildlife.  Tours take approximately 3 hours to complete and are $10 per seat.  Space is limited so reservations are required.  You can reserve your spot by calling the park at (806)455-1492.  But, as you can imagine, seats fill up fast so don’t wait!

Programs & Events:

June 1st:  National Trail’s Day

  • National Trails Day Hike, 9:00 a.m., Meet at the Upper South Prong Trail Head
  • National Trails Day Trailway Tour, 2:00 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.
  • National Trails Day Bat Tour, 6:45 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.

June 7th:

  • Bat Tour, 6:45 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.

June 8th:

  • Caprock Van Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  Tour is FREE.
  • Goin’ Batty, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion.  (Program is designed for children 12 and under)
  • The Dirt Storm Drifters Band, 7:30 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion

June 14th:

  • Music in the Park, 7:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion
  • Bat Tour, 7:00 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.

June 15th:

  • Caprock Van Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  Tour is FREE.
  • Goin’ Batty, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion (Program is designed for children 12 and under)
  • Nature Photography for Beginners, 7:30 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion  (Please bring any type of camera or even your smartphone)

June 21st:

  • Bat Tour, 7:00 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.

June 22nd:

  • Caprock Van Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  Tour is FREE.
  • Caprock Bingo, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion
  • Music Under the Stars, 7:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion

June 28th:

  • Bat Tour, 7:00 p.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.

Quote of the Month:

Or rather some “Advice from a Bat”:

Trust in your senses.  Spend time just hanging around with friends.  Get a grip.  Enjoy the nightlife. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta wing it!  Guano happens!

~ Ilan Shamir (source from yourtruenature.com)

Interpreter’s Corner:

Have you ever heard of someone having chiroptophobia or the fear of bats?  Bats are in the order chiroptera which means hand-wing due to the fact that their wing membrane stretches over the bones making up the arm and fingers, hence the name.  It has been suggested that famed writer Bram Stoker got his inspiration for “Dracula” due to his extreme fear of bats although there has never been any verifiable proof of this nor if he ever indeed had chiroptophobia.  However, what is clear is that many people do experience unfounded fears of bats and often the source of these fears is simply misinformation.  In fact, it was only after Stoker’s Dracula became popular in Europe that Europeans discovered the species of bat in South America called the vampire bat and began to associate the two together.  Unfortunately, reports of encounters with vampire bats during this time were often exaggerated.  So many different myths about bats have emerged over the years that amazingly the bat has even coined terms we use quite often in our culture such as, “You’re blind as a bat” (this one always makes me laugh since bats are not blind by the way) or “Bats in the Belfry”.  Even though most of our culture and ideas about bats are formed through this type of misinformation, it’s important to note that bats have always been our friends.  Many bats help in the pollination process of various plants while insectivorous bats eat thousands of insects each night.  (Mexican Free-tails eat half their body weight in insects every night and their favorite is the cotton-bowl worm moth and corn ear-worm moth which do considerable damage to cotton and corn crops)  And before you discount even the vampire bat, note that it’s anticoagulant in its saliva is helping to treat people with blood-clotting issues!  Celebrate this amazing creature with us and join us for the bat tours this summer!  You’ll be glad you did!

I look forward to seeing you out at the park soon!

Le’Ann