“Tower” was hand-carved on linoleum by Berkeley artist Irenka Pareto. It shows two crows and a falcon in a formation that suggests a tower, like the Campanile. (Photo by Irenka Pareto)
Nature has always inspired artists, so it’s no surprise that UC Berkeley’s peregrine falcons appear in numerous paintings, drawings, photos — and even a tattoo — by artists from the Bay Area and beyond. Much of the artwork surfaced after the death of Grinnell, Annie’s longtime mate, on March 31, but also as a result of the pandemic, when falcon-watching on
was a pastime for many people sheltered in place.
Irenka Pareto, a UC Berkeley alumna who is a local printmaker and illustrator, created “Tower,” a hand-carved, hand-printed linocut relief print of Grinnell and two crows. The birds form a vertical shape that’s a nod to the campus’s Campanile, where falcons have lived since 2016.
At home in Berkeley as COVID raged, she said, “We were very intentional in my little family that finding joy in the little things of everyday life was fundamental, and one of those sources of joy was the Cal falcons. It became part of our breakfast routine to check on the falcons and their adventures.”
“I paid attention to how visually striking they are: their striped belly and legs, the sideburns, the contrast in their coloring and the pop of yellow,” said Pareto, whose art studio is aptly called The Wonderstruck Printmaker. “They are made to be art!”
“I am a self-taught artist who enjoys using all sorts of mediums to create art,” said Lora Roame, a wildlife biologist who lives in Walnut Creek. “I usually work in acrylic, graphite, ink, digital and watercolor. I love science illustration and enjoy painting local plants and animals, especially birds and bats.”
“I have drawn Grinnell, Annie and the 2020 chicks — Poppy, Sequoia and Redwood. I have spent hours drawing these lovely birds based on their photos and have even done some real-time sketching while watching the (Cal Falcons live cam,” said Roame. (Photo by Michael Voeltz
“I love all the falcons that have called the Campanile home,” said Roame, “but I have a special fondness for Grinnell, because he was a banded peregrine. As a volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory’s banding program, I am always excited to see banded birds in the wild, and I think he was a great representation of the data we can gather through bird banding. I was so heartbroken to hear of Grinnell’s death, since we lost one of our founding falcons.”
“One morning in 2020, I was walking on campus, and I heard a loud ruckus,” said wildlife photographer Bridget Ahern, a Berkeley resident. “I vaguely remembered being told there were peregrine falcons there. Hearing that glorious shrieking sound of multiple birds, I wanted to find and see them. I ran home, got my camera and … within a short time, I saw the fledglings and was able to take my first photos. I was hooked immediately.”
(Photo by Dorothy Hearst
“I love this photo of Annie zipping around the Campanile, as it shows her amazing agility, and it is not a photo that you typically see of a falcon,” said Ahern. (Photo by Bridget Ahern
“Painting is something I’ve done on the side ever since I can remember. I mostly paint with ink and watercolor. I’ve had no formal training, but by now I’ve probably created over 1,000 paintings,” said Meg Shriber, a recent Berkeley graduate who works at LinkedIn and is an aspiring children’s book author. (Photo by Byron Zhao
“This piece is most obviously inspired by Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagaw’ — I have seen variations of that painting everywhere, and I wanted to create my own version that featured some of our campus icons,” said Shriber. “And, of course, I had to include the Campanile falcons! … In the original, … it looks like the looming wave is going to drown Mt. Fuji … until you realize it’s a trick of forced perspective, and that the mountain will be fine after the wave crashes. It’s a nice reminder that we are able to endure things that seem impossibly challenging.” Shriber’s Instagram account is @vossanova.
“These past years have been especially hard, and these birds have offered awe, beauty and connection to the community we live in at a time when this was sorely needed. So, I am not surprised that those of us who express how we feel or how we live visually would end up with Grinnell and Annie all over our studios,” says printmaker and Berkeley alumna Irenka Pareto. (Photo by Irenka Pareto
“One day, I was on a call with another printmaker, and I had a piece of linoleum in front of me. I started sketching Grinnell directly on the block, which I don’t usually do, and that’s how the print started. Once I hung up, I looked for pictures of Grinnell, just because I found him really beautiful. I took screen captures of the (Cal Falcons YouTube videos and made tweaks and changes to the pencil sketch until I was satisfied,” said Pareto, whose art studio/business is called The Wonderstruck Printmaker. (Photo by Irenka Pareto
“This year’s nesting season has been so wildly dramatic, like a bird soap opera! I was so relieved when Grinnell recovered the first time, and when he died so soon after, it was really heartbreaking,” said Maddy Donahue, an illustrator in China who was raised in Berkeley. “I couldn’t let him go without paying tribute.”
(Photo by Tianshu Gao
“I wanted this particular pose of him soaring overhead,” said Donahue, whose mom, Christina Tarr, is a cataloging librarian at Berkeley Law and a Cal Falcons volunteer. “I used photos from Cal Falcons’ Instagram, and also some from other photographers who study these falcons, to get his features right.”
“One day, while scrolling through a sea of Instagram posts, the falcons caught my eye. I read up about Annie and Grinnell and loved them right off the bat,” said Grace Millsap, a wildlife biology major at Texas A&M University. “I would really love to become an urban wildlife biologist in the future, and Annie, Grinnell and Alden are some of my inspirations.” (Photo courtesy of Grace Millsap
“My artwork with the two falcons in it shows Grinnell at the top and Annie at the bottom. … The art is meant to depict their relationship ending after Grinnell’s death. Peregrine falcons typically mate for life, so when an individual in a mating pair dies, it’s a significant moment in the other individual’s life. … I wanted to depict that even in Grinnell’s death, I imagine that they would’ve fought to stay together, even as Grinnell left the mortal world, hence why Annie is flying up to him and Grinnell has his talon outstretched to her,” said Millsap, who focuses on digitally-rendered art.
“I didn’t expect myself to be so sad that Grinnell had passed away. I was trying to process my emotions and had recently started this little project for myself where I’d make short personal comics for what’s going on in my mind, a new way of journaling, storytelling with an emotional narrative,” said Seattle resident Ning Wan, whose mother attended UC Berkeley. (Photo by Hana Sun
“I started something about Grinnell in the evening of the day he died and posted it on Instagram,” said Wan. a product manager at Microsoft. “A lot of people … saw it and navigated to my profile. They were all very kind, saying, ‘Thank you for capturing this, for sharing how you feel.'”
Salinas resident Andersen Hubbard, age 6 1/2, “likes the falcons because they’re easily accessible for him to check what they’re up to,” said his mom, Kayla Otteson. “We check on them often. He thinks it’s sad that they eat birds, but he understands, and he does like to watch them hunt and fly.”
(Photo by Kayla Otteson
“This artwork is inspired by the excitement surrounding the hatching of the chicks this year. Andersen was hopeful that the third egg would hatch, and he created his nest project on May 7 as we watched and waited. The work is made of recycled cardboard, construction paper and is reinforced with tape and glitter glue. It took Andersen about a half hour to make the project at home,” said Otteson. (Photo by Kayla Otteson
“Animals, nature, and art are three of my favorite things, and I think many people are drawn to them because they are forms of unconditional love,” said Sandy Lwi, an alumna and local research psychologist. “They ask nothing of you and make no demands. They remain whether you are at your best or feeling your worst, creating your greatest work or faffing about. They bring a tremendous amount of joy when you spend time with them mindfully.” (Photo by Sandy Lwi
“I painted this about six months after I first started watercoloring, right when we learned about the falcons and the webcam. I’m glad I did, because the painting anchors that discovery to a specific time that I would otherwise forget because I have a terrible memory!” said Lwi, who took a watercoloring class in 2019 that provided her with a hobby during the pandemic. “I drew it in pencil, watercolored it, and then outlined it a bit with a black Micron pen. I believe Grinnell was the inspiration!”
“Art is truly an appreciation of the world around us. … I feel that my art strengthens my relationship with my world by driving me to study the details and colors of everything from individual leaves to the motions of people to the trends that evolve into tradition and add to a culture,” said Cora Conner, a natural sciences student at Sierra College in California’s Gold Country. (Photo by Sienna Nelson
“For my drawing, I used a reference picture of Annie sitting on the nest, initially because I liked how it reminded me of when I find a broody chicken in its box at home,” said Conner, who loves to garden and raise chickens. “The rest of the drawing is kind of a collection of organized doodles that turned into a more structured tribute to the birds,” plus Grinnell, the Campanile and a towering conifer.
“When Grinnell died, there was a memorial that appeared at the base of the Campanile,” said Jonathan Hale, a Berkeley student. “A note placed there described how by watching as Grinnell and Annie defiantly confront life’s challenges, we were able to learn more about our own humanity. I think that’s how I feel.”
(Photo by Hsi-Min Chan
“What draws me to tattoos,” said Hale, “is that unlike the other markings on my skin, tattoos afford me an opportunity to express myself with intention.”
(Photo by Alberto Tirado
“I often tell people I was born with binoculars in my hands, but it would also be true to say I was born with a pencil and paper in front of me, too,” said Lauren Helton, a staff biologist at the Institute for Bird Populations and its scientific illustrator. “I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, and most of that art has been birds and other wildlife.” (Photo by Marjorie Helton
“I’ve done two Cal Falcons-inspired artworks,” said Helton. “One was the T-shirt design for this year, which does specifically depict Grinnell and Annie doing some cute pair-bonding — before we sadly lost him — but now it serves as a fitting memorial.”
Biologist Lynn Schofield, shown here with a juvenile red-tailed hawk in the Marin Headlands while doing raptor banding with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, began painting in her late teens and preferred watercolors, since “for over 10 years, I was moving between different study sites every few months. Watercolors are portable, and their fluidity lends itself to observations of nature. I’ve mostly painted birds, because that’s what I study and that’s what I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching, contemplating and concentrating on.” (Photo by Walter Kitundu
“I made this painting of Grinnell a couple years ago, after I became a little more stationary,” said Schofield, a staff biologist with The Institute for Bird Populations who also manages education and outreach for Cal Falcons. “I’m not in the field in the way I used to be, but I’m still doing research and watching nature.” Her young son, Vireo helped her with the background.
Discovering that she could view the falcons’ daily lives while isolating at home gave alumna Sandy Lwi, who is a research psychologist in Berkeley, and her partner “a sense of freedom and adventure that we couldn’t experience otherwise,” she said, “and that was such a balm for the fear and uncertainty we all were experiencing at the time.” While in lockdown, she used the skills she’d learned in a watercoloring class to create a painting of Grinnell.
Jonathan “Jonny” Hale, a Berkeley undergraduate, chose to put falcon art onto his body. While on a trip to Tijuana last month, he had his right arm tattooed with a falcon, the Campanile and a branch of magnolia blossoms at the Last Temptation Tattoo Shop. It took three hours to plan the design with
tattoo artist Alberto Tirado
and about eight hours to complete. Hale said he’s followed the lives of Berkeley’s falcons since late 2019, when he decided to transfer to the campus.
This digital painting of Annie, done on a denim-textured background, is by Lauren Helton, a staff biologist at The Institute for Bird Populations who also is its scientific illustrator.
While the falcon on his arm isn’t Grinnell, specifically, Hale said “it represents Grinnell, but also peregrine falcons, in general, … It represents the uniquely human virtues that the Cal falcons embody, which allow us to love their presence and mourn their passing.”
has collected much of the falcon artwork — some of it from as far away as Seattle, Texas and China — and placed it on an
Instagram reel. The group of raptor experts and volunteers discovered many of these paintings and photos when artists posted their work on social media, then tagged Cal Falcons.
Where art and science connect
Many of the artists captivated by Berkeley’s falcons aren’t just nature-lovers, they’re also students of or experts in the natural sciences.
Artist Grace Millsap, a wildlife biology student at Texas A&M University, aspires to be an urban wildlife biologist, and that’s why she has followed the adventures of Annie, Grinnell and Alden, Annie’s new mate.
On Nov. 17, 2021, wildlife photographer Bridget Ahern captured Grinnell taking off for the bell tower after he was treated for injuries at Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)
“Animals that find ways to thrive in urban settings are fascinating to me,” said Millsap, who especially loves to draw native North American species. “Cities have never been particularly friendly places for wildlife to live in, but some wildlife do it anyway. Those animals take a lot of city-specific risks, but they adapt to them and learn how to best thrive in that habitat.
“Grinnell’s death was a reminder of those risks, … but his life was a testament to his ability to navigate them as well as any human.”
Walnut Creek resident
Lora Roame, a wildlife biologist and a volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory’s banding program, said that for her, “art has been a powerful tool to observe nature more closely.” Drawing and painting wildlife, she said, has helped her improve her skills as a naturalist, exercise her observational abilities and get curious about the world around her.
“I feel very fortunate to have a small window into the lives of these falcons,” said Roame, who has done numerous sketches of Berkeley’s falcons, “and they continue to be a source of joy and inspiration for me and my art.”
Having the fastest member of the animal kingdom in her own backyard — peregrines can clock 240 mph doing high-speed dives for prey— turned
wildlife photographer Bridget Ahern, an Oakland resident, into a regular visitor to the university. She said she’s learned to wait patiently to shoot the falcons’ “interactions in flight, whether it is the fledglings playing talon tag, the adults carrying prey with the fledglings following, prey exchanges between the adults and the fledglings, and even the interaction with the interlopers.
“For me, it is the art of discovery — being in a natural environment and using my senses to observe what is happening around me. I often say that I am a reverse birder, meaning that I photograph the birds and then go home and consult bird books to see what I have photographed.”
Webcams give a rare, inspiring view
Andersen Hubbard, age 6 1/2 cuts construction paper for an art project about Berkeley’s falcons at his home in Salinas. (Photo by Kayla Otteson)
In his hometown of Salinas, 6 1/2-year-old Andersen Hubbard can’t see the falcons in person, the way Ahern can. But this spring, he patiently watched the webcam on the nest box, where Annie had laid three eggs. As he waited, he constructed the nest, the eggs and Annie out of construction paper and recycled cardboard.
The young boy’s artwork, sent to Cal Falcons by his mom, Kayla Otteson, “made my day,” said Lynn Schofield, a staff biologist for The Institute for Bird Populations who also runs education and outreach for Cal Falcons. “I like that it’s an interactive piece — super-creative.”
is much further away, in Qingdao, China. Born and raised in Berkeley, she’s beginning a career overseas in illustration, having recently graduated with an master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design. She loves Beatrix Potter’s characters and said she hopes “to make children’s books that focus on animals, fairy tales and the natural world around them.”
Grace Millsap created this piece on April 1, the day after Grinnell died, using an app called Procreate. The strong bond between Grinnell (above) and Annie is emphasized. Millsap added lyrics from “Mars” by Sleeping at Last. The Texas A&M student said they’re “especially fitting, considering (Grinnell’s) story of rehabilitation; he was able to be rereleased after he healed, but nature had other plans.”
Donahue follows the Berkeley falcons on the nest webcam, as well as Cal Falcons’ Instagram posts, but also learns the latest news — “it’s like a bird soap opera!” she said — from her mom, Christina Tarr, a librarian at Berkeley Law and a Cal Falcons volunteer. When Grinnell died, Donahue painted a picture of him and posted it on social media: “I couldn’t let him go without paying tribute,” she said.
Ning Wan, a product manager at Microsoft, also watches the Berkeley falcons remotely. So does her mother in Lafayette, where the two sheltered in place after Wan’s school, Columbia University, sent students home in March 2020 to study remotely.
Grinnell was found dead
in downtown Berkeley this spring, Wan, who by then was living in Washington, turned to her mom to process her emotions. “I didn’t know how to explain it to my friends,” she said. Creating digital art about the raptor’s death — a type of journal entry, “storytelling with an emotional narrative,” said Wan — helped.
“Artists are people who are naturally sensitive and on the emotional side. It’s not hard to imagine there’s a good overlap between artists and people with a soft spot for animals,” she said. Wan plans to find a way to use these traits for the greater good.
“Especially in the age of climate change, we all need to have our place in understanding the situation of our world and how we’re going to help it,” she said. “I want to find a place in my skill set to connect to the natural world and to other people through art.”