Coastal Hacking

COASTAL REINTRODUCTION

The first releases of captive-reared peregrine falcons in Virginia occurred within the outer coastal plain. This area has a rich prey base for peregrines and it was believed that if a breeding population could be established here, young produced over the years would re-colonize historic breeding locations within the mountains. Over a several year period, a series of towers were erected along the barrier islands for release of young and for breeding. Between 1978 and 1985, 115 young peregrines were released in coastal areas of Virginia. See below for descriptions of hack sites and details of releases within individual sites.

Back Bay Hack Site

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was used for a falcon release site for only one year in 1982. Located in the southeast portion of Virginia Beach, the 1860 hectare refuge has approximately even proportions of land and water and is managed primarily for migratory waterfowl. The seven kilometers of ocean shoreline provide an abundance of prey with the variety of tidal beaches, marshes, and maritime pine forest. Unfortunately, the area also has a relatively high number of predators including raccoons and Great Horned Owls.  The 10 meter hack tower was located on one of several managed impoundments with the box facing southeast. The one year of use was relatively uneventful with the exception of a young female falcon who was injured on her maiden flight. She was quickly rehabilitated and released again in time to fledge successfully that season. All in all the site was quite successful although the persistent presence of Great Horned Owls in the area left it an undesirable choice for future years.

List of Hack Attendants: Janet Artley, Rudy Cashwell, Jr.

Year Chicks Released Chicks Fledged
1982 7 7

Chincoteague Hack Site

Chincoteague Hack Site 2Located on Assateague Island, this release site was constructed on the northern border of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, less than one kilometer from the Maryland state line. The site made use of a 10 meter hack tower that was erected in the middle of a large wash flat approximately 3 km long by 1 km wide. Less than 120 m. from the beach, the tower was positioned just inside the dune line. Hack attendants conducted observations from lounge chairs on the beach. An excellent site with abundant prey, Chincoteague NWR initially made a great release location. During the second year of operation, however, the site was disrupted by a territorial male that had taken up residence at Wallops Island. The adult male, named Zorro, ultimately caused the loss of 3 of the young falcons. They were simply chased out to sea and not seen again. As a result of the strong territoriality of this male and his persistence at Wallops Island, the Chincoteague site was not used a third time.

List of Hack Attendants: Dana Bradshaw, Jeff Carlton, Scott Hammond, Leon Hecht.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1980

5

5

1981

6

3


Cobb Island Hack Site

Cobb Island Hack Site 2Cobb Island was the site of the first Peregrine release in Virginia. The coast guard station located on the extreme southern end of the island served as a base of operations for all releases. Peregrines were first released in 1978 from the coast guard station itself. Birds were hacked from a box placed on the third floor observation room. Birds hacked after 1978 were released from the peregrine hack tower erected in the winter of 1978. Cobb Island is a barrier island located along the seaward margin of the Delmarva Peninsula. The island is now owned by The Nature Conservancy and is included in The Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve. The Cobb Island coast guard station was moved from the island to the town of Oyster in 1999 and restored. The station now serves as a lodge and meeting complex.Cobb Island Hack Site 4

List of Hack Attendants: Rudy Cashwell, Bob Cross, Doug Davis, Randy Downer, Scott Durkin, Hans Gabler, Greg Greer, Dave Sexton, Jeannie Taylor, Susan West.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1978

5

3

1979

5

5

1980

5

5

1981

6

6

1982

7

7

1983

7

7

1984

5

5


Fisherman’s Island Hack Site

Fisherman's Island Hack SiteFisherman’s Island is a satellite Refuge to the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. Located just off the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, it sits in the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The island is bisected by Route 13 which links Northampton County to Virginia Beach, some 30 kilometers away to the south. Like other barrier islands it is comprised of a complex of beaches, dunes, salt marsh, and coastal scrub habitat. This, and its position in line with the Delmarva Peninsula make it a magnet for migratory birds of all species, thereby providing abundant prey opportunities. The hack tower was constructed in the early spring of 1980. It was placed on the edge of a marsh approximately 1 km east of Rt. 13 and toward the center of the island. Unfortunately, two young were lost to severe thunderstorms during the hack period.

List of Hack Attendants: Christopher King, Jeffrey Thompson.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1980

5

3


Great Fox Island Hack Site

Great Fox Island is a low, marshy island group of approximately 160 hectares located 8 kilometers southwest of Crisfield, MD and 8 km NE of Tangier Island, VA in the upper Chesapeake Bay. Owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the island is actually comprised of 5 small islets: Big, House, Clump, South, and Stumpy. The 10 meter hack tower was constructed on Big Island with the box facing southeast. The site provided isolation, relative protection from ground predators and owls, and an abundance of prey species. During its first year of operation in 1981, a sub-adult tiercel appeared in the area and stayed throughout the hack period, but showed no aggression toward the young falcons. However, in 1983 a pair of adult falcons showed up at the site creating serious problems for the release. With only one young falcon successfully fledging that year it became apparent that Great Fox Island would no longer be suitable for releases.

List of Hack Attendants: Richard Browne, Evelyn Gallagher, Frances Hunt, Norman Jaffe, Irene Rusnak, David Stephens.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1981

6

6

1982

6

6

1983

4

1


Parramore Island Hack Site

Parramore Island is the southernmost barrier island in Accomack County, VA. Owned by The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, it is one of the largest and most heavily forested of the Virginia barrier islands, at 13 kilometers long and over 2 km at its widest point. The hack tower was constructed on the south end of the island behind the dune line and at the furthest point from the forest cover on the north end. Running north-south along the back side of the island a line of derelict utility poles provided numerous perches. As with other the other coastal hack sites, prey abundance and diversity was rich.  The Parramore hack site was visited by immature peregrines from other sites on at least 4 occasions during the hack period, suggesting this site may receive increased visitation in the future. This, in conjunction with the increasing number of nesting pairs on the coast, ruled Parramore out for additional years of use.

List of Hack Attendants: Jeff Sabol, Wade Walker.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1984

7

7


Russell Island Hack Site

Russell Island is a low, salt marsh island of 220 hectares located 10 kilometers west of Deep Creek, VA along the upper Bay side of the Eastern Shore. Primarily marsh, the island also has an upland stand of hardwoods and brush approximately 35 meters long by 200 meters wide. The hack tower was constructed near the west end of the stand of trees. With ospreys nearby, the hack box was constructed with a peaked roof to thwart their nesting attempts. The island provided a rich selection of prey including shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds. The release site on Russell Island was one of the most successful of the coastal sites. It maintained a 100% fledging success rate through its first 3 years. Much to the surprise of hack attendants however, a Great Horned Owl moved in to the area during the fourth year. The site fledged only 3 of the 7 young falcons. Remains of the other birds were found at different areas around the site, apparently taken by owls. This effectively closed the site to future releases.

List of Hack Attendants: Robin Abbey, Richard Browne, Rudy Cashwell, Jr., John Chamberlayne, Evelyn Gallagher, Jeff Sabol, David Turner, William Wat Tyler.

Year

Chicks Released

Chicks Fledged

1982

6

6

1983

7

7

1984

6

6

1985

7

3