The pair mated in the canyon and chirps from one, or possibly two, chicks could be heard coming from the pair's nest. But the nest was abandoned and the birds left the area in late May 2009 for undetermined reasons and have not been seen in the Gorge since.
This year, an adult peregrine was seen in the Grandview area in March, and adult peregrines have been seen recently at and near the New River Gorge Bridge. A juvenile peregrine was spotted earlier this year near Little Beaver State Park in Raleigh County, just a few air miles from the Gorge.
A peregrine nicknamed Ross, banded and released as part of the New River Gorge's 2007 falcon program, has been spotted nesting in a quarry in Jefferson County for the past two years. That bird and its mate produced two chicks last year, but they failed to survive to adulthood because of a predator, believed to be a great horned owl.
Once month-old birds are brought to the Grandview section of the Gorge from well-established but dangerous nesting sites in Virginia and New Jersey, identification bands are attached to their legs and they are placed in one of two clifftop enclosures called hack boxes.
The barred front walls of the boxes give the birds a . . . well, birds-eye view of a long stretch of the New River and canyon surrounding it. Flash-frozen whole quail are thawed and dropped into the hack boxes through tubes at the rear of enclosures.
The idea behind the hack boxes is to gradually allow the young birds to acclimate themselves to a new area, be protected from predators, and receive food without associating it with human contact.
By mid-June, the two new arrivals should be ready to make their first flights.
Hack box attendant Andy Woodruff is responsible for the day-to-day nourishment of the young peregrines, and will track their movements on a daily basis after they are released from the boxes, with assistance from Three Rivers Avian Center intern Rebecca Pollard of Oak Hill.
"It's a great view up here, although sometimes you can't see it because of the fog," Woodruff said. "In a couple of weeks, the peregrines will start to fly. It doesn't take them long at all to catch on."
At this point, it's uncertain how many peregrine chicks will be released from the New River Gorge hack boxes this year.
"Originally, we were scheduled to get 11 from Virginia," Perrone said, "but we may get more and we may get less."
Other young falcons being reared on buildings and bridges in New Jersey are expected to be brought to the New River Gorge for hack-box rearing and release in the wild.
"We hope to be able to continue this until we get a population of peregrines nesting here," said Perrone. "That's the goal of the program."
Side trails leading to the hack box sites off Grandview Rim Trail are closed during the hacking process.
"The best time to get a look at the new peregrines will be in about three weeks, from Grandview's North Overlook," a short distance from the release site, Perrone said. "From there, you can see them flying and hanging out."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.