Thanks to a new union, peregrine falcons eggs are being incubated again high on a ledge of the United States Fidelity & Guaranty building at the Inner Harbor as they have every year since 1984.
Only a few weeks ago, the seven-year string of springtime eggs and hatchings of the relatively rare birds seemed likely to be broken.
Blythe, the resident female falcon since 1984, disappeared around March 1 and was found dead April 20, apparently having starved after becoming immobilized.
But then, about two weeks after Blythe's disappearance, a new female -- who has recently been named Felicity -- appeared.
Felicity has produced three eggs that she and her new mate, Beauregard, the USF&G; veteran, are taking turns incubating on the same 33rd-floor ledge where Beauregard and Blythe incubated their young. USF&G; falcon-watchers hope the three new eggs, laid over several days last week, will hatch in the first week of June.
John Barber, a USF&G; employee and the company's unofficial falcon caretaker, points out, however, that "we don't know yet if they are fertile."
Felicity appears to be about a year old, Mr. Barber said, and first-year females breeding for the first time often lay infertile eggs.
The name "Felicity" was suggested by Jaime Jordan and other fourth-graders at Fullerton Elementary School in Baltimore County. The students read newspaper accounts of Blythe's death and wrote a letter to Mr. Barber with the idea for the new female's name.
"We all agreed that Felicity would fit nicely and retain the old-fashioned mood of the previous female falcons' names," the students wrote. The name, from the Latin word for happiness, was used in England starting in the 17th century.
Scarlett, the first female to occupy the USF&G; nest and Beauregard's first mate, died of a throat injury in 1984. She and Beauregard raised one brood before her death, although she raised 17 adopted eyases as part of the effort to restore peregrine populations that had been decimated by the pesticide DDT.
In addition to Felicity and Beauregard, seven other peregrine pairs are known in Maryland. But whether all are nesting is unclear, said Glenn D. Therres, supervisor of the state Department of Natural Resource's non-game and urban wildlife program.
A pair on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge had five eggs at last check. Four pairs occupy man-made towers on the lower Eastern Shore, and they all had eggs at last check. Another is on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, but there's no word yet on eggs. Pairs have been seen on the Susquehanna River near Port Deposit and in Ocean City, but they are thought not to have built nests.
Meanwhile, USF&G; officials are making sure Felicity, Beauregard and the three eggs are not disturbed.
"We are keeping [Felicity] in almost complete isolation," Mr. Barber said. She is skittish, and the presence of anyone in the room that looks out on the nest causes her to flee, he said.
Other peregrine pairs at the nest typically were incubating eggs by mid-March.
"We are very, very happy to have eggs this late in the season," Mr. Barber said.
If the eggs do hatch, Felicity and Beauregard should have no trouble finding prey for the young, Mr. Barber said. The falcons, which are able to reach 200 mph while hunting, mainly eat pigeons, mourning doves and other birds that are plentiful throughout the spring and summer.