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Batman might call Gotham City home, but when it comes to seeing the winged creatures in the wild, few places in North America rival Austin, Texas.

Nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats make their home under Austin’s Ann W Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. As the sun sets each night, a black cloud emerges from under the bridge as the creatures go in search of moths and other bugs to call dinner.

Austin commemorates the peak viewing season with Bat Fest, now in its seventh year. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the 27 August celebration, and there’s plenty to do in addition to the bat show (between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm). Visitors can don their craziest bat outfit for a chance to win the costume contest, munch on themed treats like “bat wings” (actually turkey), pick up a shirt sporting the city’s unofficial motto, “Keep Austin weird”, or listen to one of the 20 bands playing the festival.

Not in Austin? The United Nations named 2011-2012 the “Year of the Bat”, so a number of cities around the world will be holding bat-themed celebrations and educational events, like a bat safari on the Cambridge River outside of London (through 16 September) and the opening of Sweden’s first bat museum on 23 October.

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