Sunday, 24 January 2010


Every now and again I see a cluster of the birds called knot. They zoom up and down the Estuary swarming past like a cloud of gnats. Knot, gnat! Could there be a verbal connection? They put on a magnificent air display. They never stand still long enough for me to identify them as knot. Like an old man's days and hours they fly too fast. As they fly they turn in perfect harmony and the colour of their passing changes from dark to light, light to dark.

The popular notion that their name derives from King Canute who, like the knot, settled himself at the edge of the tide, is apparently false. Linnaeus fell for it and labelled them as canutus canutus but he was misled.

The name is somewhat wonderland:

"But what if they are not knot?" asked that heroine of our nation, Alice, of the Dormouse .

"Not knot, not knot, not knot, not knot." said the Dormouse, without opening its eyes, and fell asleep immediately. "

"You might have stayed awake, you know, at least long enough to answer my question" said Alice "Now I shall never know."

"The answer ," said the Mad Hatter, "is that if they are not knot they must be something else."

But, believe me! The birds I mean are not not knot. They are the real McCoy.

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