An Inspiration of Waders

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Why the collective noun for a swirling mass of waders over an estuary should be An Inspiration of Waders.

Collective nouns can sometimes be very apt, ‘a pack of knots’ for example. These lovely creatures pack together when they gather to roost at high tide.

A pack of Knots
A Pack of Red Knots.


Others though can be thoroughly objectionable, such a ‘deceit of lapwings’; what a terrible collective noun for such a wonderful bird. Yet others can be unfathomable like ‘an omniscience of godwits’, what is that all about? Whoever thought that godwits had all the answers?

There is though, no collective noun that we can use to describe the uplifting sight of waders in their thousands over an estuary or marsh like this.

An inspiration Snettisham
A mixed aggreagtion of waders over Snettisham, Norfolk.


Some will revert to the much used ‘flock of waders’. This collective noun is used for many things and is a sort of cover-all. But does it adequately communicate the indescribable beauty of these birds? Does it capture the essence of the birds in full flight in the sun against a leaden sky? We think not.

‘A flock’ may be suitable for a random bunch of sheep on a hillside, or an unruly mob of pigeons in a town square, but it is not nearly descriptive enough for our beloved waders.

Nor is ‘a murmuration’ suitable, which we have heard used. That noun is specific to starlings and should not be usurped. It is not right that any collective noun designated to a particular species, however apt they may seem, be used such as ‘a charm of goldfinches’ or ‘an exaltation of larks’.

No, we have described at length, over the last few years, how waders have been inspiring humanity. This culminated in us publishing our book An Inspiration of Waders. The inspiration that waders have given us all can be seen in our art, literature, poetry, customs, myths and legends. They even inspired Christopher Columbus to keep going despite the reservations of his crew. They also inspired us of course to start our Wader Quest project dedicated to their survival.

For these reasons, we are suggesting that ‘an inspiration of waders’ be adopted as the collective noun for these wonderful and often enigmatic birds. They have captured our imagination through the ages from cave painting, through hieroglyphs, Easter Bunnies to the modern world.

Read full article here.