A recent Friday morning that Lakewood employee Connor McAlinden expected to be filled with roadway surveying quickly took a different direction when he spotted a pair of mallard ducks in distress. McAlinden, a traffic engineering technician who was working on Jewell Avenue between Sheridan and Wadsworth boulevards, said a male and female duck were “both quacking loudly and pacing” near a grate for a stormwater inlet. When he got closer, he found the cause of the alarm: their three ducklings were stuck inside a stormwater grate and were quacking to their parents.

McAlinden felt he had to do something, otherwise he couldn’t “have a good weekend knowing they’re in there.” He tried pulling the grate up, but it wouldn’t budge, so he returned to City Hall in search of assistance. Alan Searcy, Joseph Buchanan and A.J. Sandoval from the Public Works Department returned with McAlinden to the grate on Jewell, but they realized it was solidly rusted shut. Then James Jacobsen, a construction inspector, arrived with a variety of tools to help pry open the grate.

Once the grate was open, Searcy managed to grab one duckling right away, but the other two were further down the inlet pipe. McAlinden jumped into knee-deep water in the inlet, which enabled him to reach the second duckling. But the third remained out of reach, swimming 10-15 feet up the inlet, deep inside the 18-inch pipe.

No one was willing to leave before the rescue was completed, so Jacobsen called a contractor who he knew was working nearby to see if that crew had any water to flush the third duckling back out of the inlet.

While the team waited for the contractor’s truck to arrive, Searcy and the others realized the ducklings were shivering with cold, so the crew held them in their hands to warm them in the sunshine. They then returned the two rescued ducklings to their mother who immediately accepted back her lost charges.

The contractor had enough water to assist in the rescue, as McAlinden happily describes, because it “flushed the last little guy to me.”

“I’m just super stoked that mom came back,” McAlinden adds.

This feathery tale ended well with the mother mallard accepting the third duckling back to the nearby nest even though it took several hours to complete the rescue. That was the “first time I had that happen” on the job, McAlinden says with a chuckle, noting the experience was “pretty awesome” because of the “nice outcome” and the collaborative effort of the Public Works team.