Berkeley nature, and our appreciation of it, kept us going in 2020

Nature played it both ways in 2020. Devastating wildfires were distressing, but the great outdoors also provided a balm for the anxieties wrought by a challenging year.

ginko tree and yellow leaves on the ground
Nature brought us both joy and anxiety in 2020. Photo: biosfer

For many of us, it was the last straw when, in mid-August, the East Bay Regional Park District closed most of its parks because of an unprecedented number of local wildfires. Our one solution to lockdown-induced cabin fever — heading for the big outdoors — had been cruelly wrested away from us.

Unfortunately, nature played it both ways this year. It was also behind many of our most anxiety-inducing days — whether it was the time the skies turned orange because of the devastating regional wildfires, being shaken awake by a earthquake, or another Red Flag warning putting hill residents on alert and shutting off their power.

But then there were UC Berkeley’s peregrine falcon chicks. The university’s webcams perched high atop the Campanile documented the whole fascinating story of three new offspring for returning parents Annie and Grinnell — from the laying of eggs to the three young birds flying the nest. Watching the wildlife adventure proved a welcome escape for several shelter-in-place months.

Here are five stories about nature and wildlife that lifted the spirits this year.


The UC Berkeley peregrine falcon chicks kept us mesmerized

Poppy, Sequoia and Redwood, born in April to parents Annie and Grinnell, had thousands of us glued to the webcams installed by the university at the top of the Campanile. Credit: UC Berkeley

Neighborhood walks as a new form of micro-travel

Like many of us, Chris Polydoroff found solace during the long weeks of sheltering in place by taking regular walks. He found he was noticing more as he explored his North Berkeley neighborhood. Photo: Chris Polydoroff

Obi Kaufmann delivered a message of hope and resilience in his new field atlas on California’s forests

Obi Kaufmann
The Forests of California, a gorgeously illustrated book featuring Kaufmann’s watercolors, is also a primer on how to approach nature. Kaufmann, for example, is confident our much-cherished redwoods will have no problem surviving the growing number of wildfires. Photo: Pete Rosos

A day in the life of the SF Bay trail at Albany Beach

In July, the East Bay Regional Park District celebrated the completion of the Albany Beach and SF Bay Trail Project. Many local residents now take advantage of the beautiful new shorefront trail which is open to walkers and cyclists. Photo: Pete Rosos

Earth Day (at home): You showed us the nature you see from your window

For Earth Day, Berkeleyside readers shared photographs of the natural world they could see from their windows while sheltering in place. Photo: Eva Zimmerman
Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.