“Will we see them or not?” asked an eager 5-year-old Otto Ellner as he worked on a falcon coloring page in front of an incubating Annie, one of UC Berkeley’s beloved peregrine falcons.
Preschoolers, prospective UC Berkeley students, amateur birdwatchers, campus grandparents and many more gathered Tuesday to watch the livestream of the Cal Falcons “hatch day” at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA.
BAMPFA broadcasted the regular stream of the nesting site atop the Campanile Tower — the “Cal Falcon Cam” — live on their outdoor screen in Downtown Berkeley between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., gathering a consistent crowd of about 30 to 40 people at a time. Free snacks and drinks were offered to watch party attendees as falcon experts stood by, answering viewers’ questions.
While in the end no falcon chicks hatched during the stream, the first chick hatched Monday and onlookers were able to watch Annie and Lou feed and care for it along with their three remaining eggs. According to Bridget Ahern, a photographer affiliated with Cal Falcons, a second egg pipped and the chick began working its way out during the stream.
The Cal Falcons Instagram page later reported that Annie’s second egg hatched a little before midnight Tuesday.
This is the first time BAMPFA has held the viewing event since before the pandemic, previously screening the hatch for the first and only time in the spring of 2019.
Aimée Goggins, director of marketing and communications at BAMPFA, said the pandemic has brought the falcons some extra relevance. Ahern shared similar thoughts, adding that the falcons also provided an important, “positive distraction” during 2020.
“There’s something about not even this live stream but during the pandemic when you would tune into certain things and see hundreds and thousands of people from all over and knowing that they were doing the same thing,” Goggins said. “That kind of creation of community when we were all so isolated I think took on a different meaning.”
Goggins, who called the birds “local heroes or celebrities in their own right,” added that she usually just watches the falcons live out of her office window, rather than the stream.
Mary Malec, a volunteer with Cal Falcons, added that the falcons community on social media has allowed people to connect with not just the birds but each other, and find people with similar interests. Ahern agreed, adding that she met many people who also “fell in love” with the falcons as she took photos.
To commemorate “hatch day,” Salvador “Chamuco” Cortez Jr., a tattoo artist and printmaker, and their partner handcrafted linoleum block prints of the falcons and handed them out to viewers for free.
The two frequently put on the Cal Falcons Cam while they work, just to listen to their sounds and calls. As a Purépecha from Michoacán, Mexico, who grew up in the East Bay on sacred Ohlone land, Cortez said they had a special bond with the falcon animal.
“I’m Indigenous. I always believed that these animals are messengers and I’m always really happy to see a species come back and make it off the endangered species list,” Cortez said. “I’m happy they’re here.”
Gene Sanders, who is in Berkeley to help his granddaughter move out before she graduates, made a detour to watch the falcon stream Tuesday morning.
Sanders said he has been following the falcons “through the last two boyfriends,” and a Cal fan for “forever.” He recalled changing his granddaughter’s diapers at Memorial Stadium.
Current and prospective students were present too — from Anna Magruder, who said she has been following the falcons since before she applied to UC Berkeley, to Liz Garcia and Paden Frye, who happened upon the event while visiting from Riverside.
The Berkeley Public Library also set up a table filled with pamphlets, brochures, fiction and nonfiction books on peregrine falcons at the watch party. Emma Coleman, a children’s librarian at the library, remarked on the community that this moment with Annie had brought together.
“I’ve heard people squealing with glee when she gets up and you can see the fluffy chick,” Coleman said. “We’re all in anticipation of who’s going to be the next one to pop out.”