Peregrine Falcon CE Program 

Shenandoah National Park biologist Rolf Gubler addresses our group of Master Naturalists, June 7, 2022. Photo by Steven David Johnson.

“It was AWESOME!”

On June 7th, a group of 15 Headwaters Master Naturalists arrived early to Franklin Cliffs (milepost 49) in the Shenandoah National Park to observe four young peregrine falcons and learn about the program that has been taking place annually in the park since 1989. The forecast was for rain and clouds to move into the area, but we were eager enough to beat the weather. In attendance were John Bauman, Kathy Byers, Malcolm Cameron, Lacey Dean, Tina Dove, Pam and Lincoln Gray, Anna Maria and Steven David Johnson, Diane Lepkowski, Kate Mahanes, Ann Murray, Zack Perdue, Peggy Plass and Elaine Smith.

My cousin, Rolf Gubler, is nearing retirement as a park biologist, and kindly invited us. He and two other park employees (Cat and Matt) helped us observe the young peregrine falcons using spotting scopes and binoculars as the birds enjoyed an early meal. They told us the story of these particular birds. 

These four chicks were hatched in a large planter box on a condo porch near Virginia Beach. Many of the previous chicks that were relocated, were hatched in nests located under bridges, where the fledging success rates are low due to being too close to the water and not having sufficient updrafts. Typical nests for these birds are called “scrapes”, just a small depression in some gravel!

The chicks are relocated to a “hack” box, on a high cliff ledge, observed, fed, and protected from predators, such as raccoons. By seven weeks old they are full grown and making short flights. By late July, they begin extended flights of over 200 miles. Late August they leave the area, migrating south or east. Most of the chicks raised in the park move to the coast or near rivers. The park is hoping some will stay in the area. I’m planning to go back and hopefully see them in flight!

– Ann Murray, Cohort II, with contributions from Elaine Smith, Cohort IV, June 2022

Elaine’s Flickr album

Steven David Johnson’s album

June 30, 2022 photo by Cat McGrath at the SNP hack site. One of these young peregrine falcons is from the Richmond nesting site featured on the DWR Falcon Cam.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources hosts a peregrine falcon webcam in Richmond. It just concluded documenting the successful fledging of three chicks this spring, including one who was recently transferred to the SNP hack box site. Find the blog posts chronicling the nest activity HERE.