Cal falcon fever is here: We talk to 2 raptor mavens to get the skinny

Like thousands of people, a few of us on the Berkeleyside team have been mesmerized by the Cal Falcons webcam, which sits perched atop the Campanile on the UC Berkeley campus and monitors two peregrines and their eyrie, or nest.

Now, three beautiful red eggs are about to hatch. (Update, April 30: there are now two chicks and an unviable egg in the nest.) Ahead of D-Day, Berkeleyside spoke with two experts — Allen Fish, director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, and Doug Bell, wildlife program manager at the East Bay Regional Park District — about the raptors, their fascinating habits and what we can expect in the, likely to be drama-filled, days and weeks ahead.

The eggs that have been carefully incubated by Annie and Grinnell (yes, the birds have names) for the past few weeks are projected to hatch April 25. BAMPFA will even be live-streaming the webcam on its gigantic Center Street screen tomorrow. Fish calls it a pipping party, referring to how a baby falcon, known as an eyas, spends two days or so “pipping” at its shell with a sharp egg tooth on its beak before hatching. The arrival of the fluffy white chicks and their ensuing attempts to fledge and leave the nest will doubtless keep us captivated for the next few weeks.

Both Fish and Bell (who, incidentally, lets us hear his impressive falcon chick imitation) have been passionate about birds of prey since they were kids, but they grew up at a time when the pesticide DDT nearly drove falcons — sometimes referred to as the world’s most perfect flying machine — to the edge of extinction. As Fish put it in our conversation, “the question about how exciting these webcams are is partly based on the fact that when we were young biologists we didn’t know we were going to get peregrines back.”

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