The arrival of spring always harbors a few specific recurrences for the Maryville College community. While some, such as finals, comps and the ever-imminent onset of thesis, are more frequently than not looked upon with disdain, a symbol of spring at Maryville that is vibrant and important to the lives of the students as the annual arrival of our resident ducks.
These ducks have been a symbol of relief and closure to MC’s students for several years now.
Dr. Drew Crain, professor of biology, said that he remembers their arrival as far back as 10 years ago, when the ducks settled down on Maryville’s front lawn between Sutton and Lamar Alexander Parkway to live out their sunny breeding season.
Each year since, and possibly even before that time, the mallards have returned to the campus to welcome the springtime festivities, leaving the comfort of their wetland homes at Pistol or Brown’s Creek to mate and nest in Maryville’s sunny lawns and shady bushes.
According to Crain, the ducks we so fondly observe playing in Fayerweather’s fountain and wandering around near Beeson and Bartlett today are most likely not the same ducks who nested on the front lawn a decade ago. However, the chance of their offspring’s return to the grounds and a duck legacy of sorts might be likely.
Regardless, the ducks themselves have become as much a part of Maryville College as the students in recent years and many look upon them as returning friends, welcomed with anticipation and always sharing in the joys of our spring days here at MC.
Beyond this parallel, the students hold a deep admiration for the ducks that have in a way become a sort of second mascot here at MC. Beeson Hall resident assistant Keli Shipley said they feel that the ducks are a real part of the Beeson community.
“They’re like residents, really,” Shipley said.
And many residents themselves hold very fond memories of the ducks in their years at the college. Senior Mary Moates clearly remembers a date with her boyfriend specifically taken to see the MC ducks.
“They were a pleasant and useful excuse to alleviate all of the shyness associated with a first date,” Moates said.
Junior Sara Deatherage reminisces most fondly about feeding the ducks a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, delightfully eaten by the male.
Countless other students have their own special stories about the amiable pair of mallards.
“The ducks are to the students as the rock is to the college,” senior Zane Campbell said.
Their continued presence at MC is a rarity that is truly hard to explain. According to Crain, the fidelity of the ducks is the real mystery. As of yet, a valid scientific reason hasn’t been found as to why they might return to the busy campus each year, but the resulting cycle is amazing.
Each spring, the pair welcomes the warmth and relaxation of the summer along with MC’s students. In our hectic last weeks, they remain on our lawns and walkways, brightening the students’ days and basking in the beginnings of the summer yet to come. And, in an equally amazing turn of events, they retire each year with the seniors’ graduation in May, returning to the creeks until the following spring.
This year, Crain noticed the disappearance of the female mallard around the April 15. This means she has begun nesting the ten to twelve eggs that will likely hatch later this spring. Following the usual four-week incubation period, Crain predicts that the birth of the new ducklings will fall perfectly in line with finals, the end of the semester coinciding perfectly with the beginning of another cycle in the lives of our resident ducks.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hen and a bunch of ducklings walking around at graduation,” Crain said.
And, with that, our feathered friends will send off our seniors in style, leaving MC themselves once more for their homes, but always finding their way back to us when spring rolls around again.
Do you have a name for the MC ducks? Tell us your ideas on the Highland Echo
Facebook page. You can vote for the top names this week, which will be included in our final issue.