This year, the project began with 8 birds from the Chesepeake Bay area and placed in the hack box in mid May. All are taken from nests considered to be high risk situations where chick survival is poor from locations around the Chesapeake Bay area. They would be the first group to go. The Original Eight.

2 more batches were then selected for the project , and TRAC's  Wendy and Ron Perrone rendezvoused with representativeJohn Frink of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research to pick up 9 birds, and then with Shawn Padgept of the Center for Conservation Biology for at the College of William and Mary for 7 more.

 Driving out into Virginia and east of Charlottesville, they linked up with John  of Tri-State who transferred the 9 birds he’d collected the previous day from 3 locations in New Jersey (6 from bridges and 3 from a casino).

At Hopewell, VA they  met Shawn. He’d been up since 5 AM collecting chicks from different locations in the Chesapeake Bay. He had 5 already, and there were 2 to go from the Hopewell draw bridge . . . way up there on top of the north tower. 

Wendy elected to take the elevator ride up while Ron took pictures from the marina. From this  vantage point, all that was visible were adult peregrines wheeling and diving in toward the little room at the top of the tower where Shawn was grabbing the chicks while Wendy waved off the diving adults and held open the window.

Back at the marina, there was still work to be done. The Virginia chicks would have to be banded. Banding Peregrines is an exercise in going nearly deaf. One by one, Wendy gently cuddled up the biting, clawing, screamers while Shawn pop-riveted the metal bands around a leg. Peregrines are pretty much always like that. It comes with the 260 mph dive bombing ecological niche. They are part Kamikaze, part Wizard, all type “A” attitude.

As the birds were banded, blood samples were taken  for toxic metal  testing and DNA referencing, after which, the birds were packed them away for the ride to their new home.  

By 10:30  PM all were back at TRAC, where we had to examine, hydrate, feed and move them into their Flight Barn accommodations at TRAC.  At 11:30 PM we were done. The birds were  set for the night and the exam room was awash in molted down feathers.

On June 1 , Matt Varner of the National Park Service - New River Gorge (here with Ron holding) came to take the female chicks to the empty hack box on the Gorge cliff. The males were harbored in Room 1 of the new Flight Barn. On June 4 , the first box was opened and the Original 
Eight went free to the joy of their human entourage watching from a distance. On June 6 the males were moved in to the first hack box. They were released on June 16 , followed by the females on June 18.

So now we have 24 Peregrines to watch over this Summer and probably one more batch to go. It’s taking a platoon of observers to track of them and it can get a little crazy out there, but all who have supported TRAC or volunteered to make this endeavor possible should take pride in bringing such a brilliant force of nature back from the brink of extinction to the ledges of the New River Gorge.