“Oooh! What’s going on out there?” chirped Connor Coot, peeping out from under his mother. He was in the fluffy cosy nest his parents had made from soft dried grass, feathers and reeds.
“It all looks SO exciting!”
“It’s best if you just sit still until your brothers and sisters have hatched,” his mother replied.
“Ohhhhh. But I want to go swimming in the river. I want an adventure,” said Connor …..
…. and while his mother was busy checking the eggs Connor left the nest.
He looked at the water. Would he know how to swim? He should be fine as all coots can swim.
In he jumped, and YES he could swim. “Lovely,” he thought, “wheee! Here I go”.
hiding each time he heard his mother call.
What fun to be in the water swimming and splashing!
But it would be even more fun if he had someone to play with.
He so wished his brothers and sisters would hatch out of their eggs and come to play.
Wait a minute – what could he hear? Little squeaky voices calling “Connor, Connor”. Could this be his brothers and sisters? Quickly he swam home.
YES!! As he swam towards the nest he could see four red beaks and four yellow ruffs round each baby bird’s neck. His siblings were looking out for him and calling his name.
“It’s meal time Connor” they squeaked.
He was hungry after his first adventure and slipped back in amongst the others just in time for Mother Coot to start feeding her brood of baby birds.
As the days passed by Connor was always the most adventurous. While his brothers and sisters were happy to stay in the nest, Connor was keen to explore the river.
Sometimes Connor was allowed to swim along with him through the reeds. The little yellow topknot on his head and bright red beak made sure that Dad could always spot him and keep him away from danger.
Connor was proud of his bright colours. “Look at me,” he squeaked at the other birds on the river. Happily he swam around, in and out of the reed fronds.
But as Connor grew bigger and stronger he began to change. The bright yellow feathers on the top of his head were replaced by dull grey feathers. His nice red beak became a murky blackish colour.
And worst of all, his neat little feet began to grow and grow and grow!
“Mum what’s happening to me?” he asked, swimming after her.
“There, there,” she replied. “Don’t worry. You will become a beautiful grown up coot one day, with lovely coot feet just like mine.”
“What can I do to be beautiful as soon as possible?” he asked.
“Eat up all your food,” his Mother replied. She swam up to him with another tasty morsel while his father looked for more food under water.
Connor ate and ate and ate – but all that seemed to happen was that his feet got bigger still.
And all the other river birds seemed to be laughing at his feet!
“Quick kids,” said the geese. “Come and see Connor’s feet – they are amazing!”
“Where”? asked the cormorant. “I want to see Connor’s feet too!
“Hey Connor, show us your feet,” called the cheeky black cap gull.
Two swans even tried to see Connor’s feet underwater! But he had swum away quickly and they only saw the muddy bottom of the river.
All of this made Connor very sad and embarrassed. He tried to keep his feet out of sight.
Connor’s father noticed that his son was quite and sad. He was not the happy energetic chick he used to be. So father coot asked Connor what was the matter.
“It’s my FEET!” said Connor. “Everybird laughs at them!”
His father tried to comfort him. “Look Connor. My feet are just as big. That’s the kind of feet that Coots have.”
But Connor was so upset that he decided to go away on his own and hide from all the laughter.
He went to hide in the weed along the riverbank and stayed there for days.
Connor had been hiding for quite a long time, swimming quietly under the overhanging willow trees, between the rushes and low hanging bushes at the edge of the river. He was lonely without his brothers and sisters, but could not bear to hear the laughter and teasing of the other birds.
Then one day a wise and kind heron spotted him and asked why he was hiding away.
“I look too awful to be seen,” said Connor. “My feathers are all grey and my feet are so big. All the other birds laugh at me.”
“Wait a minute”’ said the heron. “I do believe that I have grey feathers and big feet, and everyone thinks I am a beautiful bird!”
Connor peeped out from the reeds and weeds to look at the heron – he WAS beautiful, with his long grey feathers blowing gently in the breeze.
“Come on out,” said the heron. “Let me take a look at you.”
Connor swam out slowly, under the sharp eye of the heron.
And what do you think happened next?
Well …. well, well, well!
The heron almost fell of his perch as he looked at a grown up handsome black and white Connor emerge onto the river!
“OK, ok,” said the heron. “Time for you to take another look at yourself. You are no longer a little grey bird. You are now a black and handsome coot. And I reckon you should get out from your hiding place and have some fun.”
With that the heron flapped away up the river on his big wings.
“Good bye, good bye – and thank you”, called Connor as the heron flew away.
Connor was not sure if he believed the heron’s words.
The still water of the river was like a mirror; Connor looked at himself in the water. True, he was now quite a sleek glossy black bird, with a smart white mark above his pale pink beak.
But he still had BIG BIG feet.
He stood there thinking, and remembered how brave he had been as a young coot chick; how he loved adventure. Maybe now was the time to be brave again. He could try to find some new friends. Maybe they would not laugh at him.
Was he brave enough to try?
Yes. Yes he was. Connor coot would go back out on the river!
He set forth up stream, and suddenly his large feet came in useful! It was hard going against the flow of the river, but Connor found he could swim with big strong strokes. His webbed feet opened out into super large paddles and he was off!
He swam and swam until finally tiring he saw some ducks resting on a nice wooden platform. Connor climbed out to join them.
“Hello” said Connor. “I’m Connor Coot. Have you seen any other coots nearby?” Most of the ducks stayed asleep, but one friendly duck told him of a lonely lady coot just round the bend in the river.
“Thank you,” said Connor. “I am off to try and make new friends.”
“Well let me be the first one,” said the duck. “My name is Delia.”
“Oh yes, of course Delia. I would love to have you as my first new friend.” said Connor as he splashed back into the water.
As he swam round the bend Connor thought he caught sight of a coot under a willow tree. He turned round and swam past again.
Yes, he was right. There was a young coot standing shyly on a log, hiding her face from him. He called out to her.
“Hello. I’m Connor Coot and I am trying to make new friends. Delia Duck is my first friend. Will you be the second?”
Slowly she looked round and stared at him. “Yes, I would like to be your second friend,” she said. “My name is Chrissy.”
What a happy afternoon they had, making friends, swimming together, and finding out about each other.
They got on so well that Connor decided to tell Chrissy about his feet and how worried he was about them.
“Oh Connor,” Chrissy said, “all coots have big feet. Look at mine!” And Chrissy happily ducked her head in the water ;getting her feet spread out behind her.
Well, that was the happiest moment in Connor’s life! Chrissy’s feet were big and magnificent. Little thrills of excitement ran through his body.
Suddenly Connor could be proud of his own large webbed feet!
“Thank you Chrissy,” he said, as she came up for air spluttering and laughing.
“Let’s celebrate. Let’s build a nest together!”
And they did. They found a nice spot by a bridge.
They collected twigs and reeds and wove them into a snug nest, and lined it with soft grass and feathers.
I think they will have some eggs to hatch one day, and some baby coots will set out for adventure!