Bristol, Connecticut, UNITED STATES — The return to school from April vacation presented a delightful surprise for some and a dilemma for others.
Students discovered 14 mallard ducklings and their mother waddling around the east wing courtyard at Bristol Eastern High School last Monday.
Sophomore Bill Mahoney was sitting in Nathalie Flynn’s fourth period study hall when he noticed the mother duck sitting near a metal grate in the center of the courtyard, said Flynn.
Curiosity struck when the mallard seemed to refuse to change position. Garrett Vanadestine, sophomore in Flynn’s study hall, discovered the ducklings in the sewer beneath the grate.
“We don’t know how long they were down there. They could have been down there all last week,” said Flynn.
The mother duckling built a nest within the courtyard under one of the bushes, and 14 out of 15 eggs hatched sometime over the vacation week.
Two janitors and one workman came to the assistance prying open the grate, and then Walter Hobbs, assistant building supervisor, pulled them out.
“The mother was awfully good,” and didn’t attack anyone, said Flynn.
Principal V. Everett Lyons now faced the dilemna of what to do with them.
“If we don’t get them pretty soon, we’ll either have to feed them or try to get them out,” Lyons said. “We have to put them in an environment where they can find some nourishment.”
Sophomore Lenor Tores and freshman Linda Valdes placed food and water around the courtyard.
“They were cute. They were so small,” said Valdes.
“They looked okay, but there was one that was really limping,” said Flynn.
Later on in the afternoon, the mother mallard along with her 13 ducklings — one died — exited the courtyard and walked into the building. Upon where the janitors led them through the building, leading them out through the band room doors, said Hobbs.
“We just kept blocking them until they found their way out,” said custodian Chad Lockhart.
The mother then “pretty much led them right out to the water” to a stream flowing through Eastern’s property, said Lockhart. “She knew where she was going.”
Lockhart noticed that one duckling couldn’t swim. He said that this was because it hadn’t developed the oils that allow it to stay afloat.
Hobbs said, “He was just laying in the water, floating like he was dead. He didn’t look too good.”
Hobbs grabbed it and handed it to Lockhart.
“It looked like it was dead. It was like a wet noodle,” said Lockhart. “We were just going to throw it out, but I’m not into that. I love animals.”
Lockhart, cupping the duckling in his hands, proceeded to warm it, trying to get it to breathe.
Custodian Brad LePane got a heat lamp from the science department. “We put him in that box, and he came back to life,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart is temporarily playing mother for the duckling. With the additional roomate, Lockhart needed some information.
Back to Basics, a Terryville feed dealer, taught him how to take care of the duckling and gave him food.
“That place was real helpful too,” said Lockhart.
Lockhart and Hobbs hope to reunite the lone duckling with its mallard family once it’s ready to swim.
Until then, Lockhart said, “Now he’s doing great, but he still has a little limp.”
Merissa Mastropiero is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.