Bird enthusiasts in Western Nueces County now have a brand new place to gather and witness their subjects in flight.
More than 50 people braved gusty winds and cloudy weather Saturday morning to witness the opening of the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch Viewing Platform. The 1,700-square-foot facility had been under construction since November.
Joel Simon, HawkWatch coordinator for Corpus Christi, said the 77-acre stretch of land the new hawk watch sits on has long been well-regarded by bird enthusiasts across the globe. He said Hazel Bazemore Park has had visitors from nine countries, like England, and 44 of the United States.
"We still need six more," Simon said.
The crowd was full of people who ranged from residents and county leaders to teachers from nearby schools.
Jane Thompson, a fifth-grade science teacher at Tuloso-Midway Intermediate School, said she would be interested in helping bring students out to experience bird watching first-hand.
"You're up above the brush, so it's very nice," Thompson said. "This will be a nice place for (students) to come."
Caroline Goodman, director for HawkWatch International, said the park is a magnet for bird enthusiasts, because of the large number of hawks that make an appearance during their fall migration.
"During the fall season, we can get upwards of one million hawks here," Goodman said, adding that the new hawk watch platform is a good starting point for beginners as well.
"If you want somewhere to be inspired by, this is the place to come," Goodman continued. "Of the few hawk watch locations I've seen, this is one of the most comfortable and accessible places I've seen."
Precinct 1 Commissioner Peggy Banales said she is happy to see the project finally completed and hopes it will help boost ecotourism to the area.
"We attract more than 1,000 visitors to the park during migration season," Banales said. "They stay in our hotels and eat at our restaurants, so it's good for the county."
The commissioner said planning is also underway for a marsh walkover on the lower areas of Hazel Bazemore Park. It would consist of about 1,500 feet of wood decking 10 feet wide and have covered lookout stations. More parking is also being considered to accommodate additional visitors, county officials said.
"We don't want to disturb anything as far as habitats go," the commissioner added.
The hawk watch platform was budgeted to cost about $123,000, but ended up coming in about $5,000 under budget.