Sometime late Thursday afternoon, between 5:30 and 6, a tiny beak poked through its egg shell and entered the world.
For the 10th year in a row, it looks like the peregrine falcon pair of Zephyr and Guinevere are going to be raising a brood.
As of Friday morning, it appeared from watching the webcam of the nest .. available at www.southbendin.gov/falcam .. that two of the nest's four eggs had hatched.
Carol Riewe, a local naturalist and raptor rehabilitated who frequently watches the webcam that monitors the birds, said she spotted the first chick Thursday and confirmed the second Friday morning -- but said that it could take a couple of days for all the eggs to finally hatch.
"And if an egg's infertile it won't hatch," Riewe said.
And now that chicks are inhabiting the nest that sits downtown atop of the county -city building, the real work begins.
Although Guinevere has mostly been nest-bound during the incubation period, she was able to leave the nest on occasions for short flights and hunts.
But now, with babies to keep warm, Riewe said the bird will stay primarily with her chicks, who were born with snowy white fluff and won't grow more protective feathers until a few weeks old.
"At this point, Zephyr is going to have to do all the hunting," Riewe said.
This year, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, 16 peregrine nests have been documented in the state, the most in modern history. The oldest bird is a 19-year-old male named Kinney, who has raised 59 chicks (not including the two eggs this year) from his nest onto Market Tower building in Indianapolis.
But even though Zephyr, age 13, is young compared to Kinney, many believe his life expectancy was cut short last year, when he arrived at the nest missing a leg from an apparent trap injury.
And while Zephyr has learned how to hunt with one leg, whether he will be able to provide for all of his young the year remains to be seen.
Last year, the falcon couple hatched three eggs, but Guinevere was only seen feeding the larger two birds.
Riewe said she believes Guinevere's survival instinct instructed her to feed only two of her young last year because Zephyr was unable to provide food for both.
"It's the bigger chicks that hatch first," Riewe said, "and are the ones that are most likely to survive."
But if Zephyr is able to provide food for his brood, the young chicks are expected to grow fairly fast. By mid June, the birds are expected to fledge -- meaning having learned how to fly -- and after only a week are likely to be seen following and interacting with their parents in the sky.
Six weeks after fledging, the birds typically leave the area in search of new hunting grounds. And with luck, Guinevere and Zephyr would return next year.
"Both birds are getting older," Riewe said, "and they tend to wear out, just like the rest of us."
But even with their struggles, peregrines are thriving across the region.
This year, nest have been spotted across northern Indiana, including two in Gary and Porter and East Chicago, and single nests in Michigan City, Porter, Whiting and Wheatfield.
But for peregrine fans in South Bend, there's still no reason to fear, at least not this year.
Although the chicks are currently hard to see on the webcam video -- they're hiding under their mom, after all -- Riewe said soon they'll be bigger and squawking for food.
"That's," Riewe said, "when it's really fun to watch."
Staff writer Dave Stephens: