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Carrie Carrie | 13:07 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Hi everyone,

Thank you to Elisabeth and Cristina for setting me my first elephant challenge. This morning was a beautiful sunny morning, so I set off in search of my 2 elephants. Although they were numbers 48 and 100, they were actually very close to each other. I found them sitting on the banks of the river Thames, almost opposite the Tower of London and close to Tower Bridge. This is elephant 48:


and here is elephant 100:


I think you'll agree that London in the sunshine is really beautiful (with or without elephants).

Anyway, not only did I find Nos. 48 & 100, but I also found a whole herd of elephants:


This started me thinking about words that describe groups of animals - so here's a little quiz for you. Can you find out what the collective noun is for a group of...

  • fish?
  • birds?
  • caterpillars?
  • dolphins?
  • wolves?
  • camels?
  • bats?
  • owls? (This is my favourite!)
I wonder what the collective noun for a group of BBC Learning English producers would be?

Take care (and don't forget to let me know if you want me to track down other elephants!)


track down: to look for and find

PS: As requested, I've been out and about looking for more elephants. First of all this is elephant number 13: it's called "Doors" and was requested by Emat:


And this one is number 86 for Elisabeth (number 68 is a bit further away and I haven't managed to get there yet!)



Number 86 was part of a whole herd of elephants marching through Green Park towards Buckingham Palace:


I really liked the eyes on this one (Number 243):

The elephants are only around for another couple of weeks and then they are off to be touched up before they are sold.

touch up: to make minor repairs - usually to the paintwork of something

PPS: Well, here it is: the very expensive elephant. This is an "indoor" elephant, as it's not weather-proof!



  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you for the photos, Carrie! Beautiful shot (is the word "shot" acceptable in this context?)of No. 48 in this light against the backdrop of Tower Bridge - and that particular one would be sitting down comfortably of course...
    As to the quiz, it's quite a tricky one, I think. Well, I would have opted for the term "school" for both fish and dolphins although I sort of feel that you have mentioned the two groups separately because they are designated by different terms. Maybe it depends on the size and you would prefer the term "swarm" for very small fish? Just guessing though. I would also choose "swarm" for the bats. I've definitely read about "packs" of wolves and "flocks" of birds and I can think of nothing else but "herd" for camels. I have no idea what to call groups of caterpillars though - other than accumulations or colonies. And I had to look up the owls, but now I understand why they are your favourites.

    I am still thinking about the Learning English producers...

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Elisabeth,

    "Shot" is exactly the right word to use!

    I won't give you the quiz answers yet - let's see what other people think! I have to confess that I didn't know most of the answers either!

    Take care


  • Comment number 3.

    Greetings Carrie
    If I'm not wrong Elisabeth's remark is sarcastic.If you are trying to prevent elephants killing it's quiet strange to describe the picture as a good shot...Something like :Take a shot.D'ont shoot!"Elisabeth am I right?
    Let me offer "Caravan" for camels "Army" for caterpillars,"Pack" or "Gang" for wolves.
    Are you "Team" or "Crew" overthere?
    Best wishes

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Danny,
    Well, this thing about sarcasm isn't quite so clearcut. At first I was really just uncertain if one could use the word in English other than in the combination "snapshot", so I am very grateful to Carrie for confirming this usage. It was only on second reading that I noticed the ambiguity of the word in this particular context...
    I wouldn't have thought of the term "gang" to describe a group of wolves - gangs always evoke memories of the West Side Story in me... But in view of the (assumed) fact that "schools" are confined to aquatic species, "flocks" can either fly or bleat, "herds" convey an image of not-all-too-bright individuals blindly following the orders of one bellwether, what is left for our beloved BBC Learning English producers? "Swarms"? - No - many, many more individuals, buzzing about, like, say, insects. Well, I hope I'm not offending anybody, but all things considered, I rather fancy the above-mentioned "gang" - I would use this term endearingly for a group of lively children or teenagers, so why not for a group of lively masterminds (leaving out the violent connotations of course)?

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Carrie,
    It is very interesting to answer the quiz.
    My answers would be
    a shaol of fish.
    a flight of birds.
    a army of caterpillars.
    a pod of dolphins.
    a rout of wolves.
    a train of camels.
    a cloud of birds.
    a parliment/stare of owls.
    makers of BBC learning english (producers)
    do correct me if the above is wrong.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi! And what for bats? I am waiting unable to try the answer.

  • Comment number 7.

    there was a mistake made earlier in my post.
    it is cloud of bats and not birds.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Carrie,
    London is beautiful and the elephants are nice. And your question about words that describe groups of animals isn't easy,dear Carrie. I guess all English babies know these words by their fifth birthday. Now I try
    a school of fish
    a flock of birds
    a string of caterpillars
    a pod of dolphins
    a pack of wolves
    a caravan of camels
    a swarm of bats
    a flight of bowls
    Look forward for the right answer.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hello Carrie,
    Thank you for the beautiful photos, story and for the quiz!
    I sow something like that in my son’s grammar book… I was surprised to read – - «a school of dolphins»! Suppose – «a school of fish» will be OK, they can swim too!
    Children remember such things much better!
    Well, maybe:
    - a pack of wolves
    - a herd of camels (When they are all in a field eating grass! They don’t always caravanning through the desert, do they?)
    - a flock of birds (And «a flock owls» – they are birds as well! Bats can fly too – why not «a flock of bats»?)
    But what about caterpillars? Can’t imagine «a string of caterpillars »! I would rather call it «a herd of caterpillars» or "a gang"!
    A group of BBC Learning English producers I would
    call «a brilliant producer team»!!!


  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Carrie,
    this morning checked for your answers and noticed my funny mistake!
    Instead of «I saw», I spelled «I sow»! Now I wonder, what a collective noun for a group of sows is?

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello Inna-L,
    You just made me laugh! That's what I like so much about this site here. You read comments from and can talk to people in very, very far-away places and yet - despite the distance and despite the differences that may exist - you discover a similar sense of humour, you can laugh together about the same things.
    Your question reminded me of a word we have in German: Sauhaufen. Translated literally this would be something like "heap of sows". It is used, of course, to describe a state of utter disorder or chaos. For instance if I want my daughters to tidy their rooms, I might argue that their clothes are piled up in there in a single, big "Sauhaufen".
    Okay now, let's wait for Carrie's answers.
    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 12.

    Hello, Elisabeth!
    Glad to meet you!
    I was looking for an English learning site for my 9 years old son in fact, when I found out this Blog. Now I am just not able to leave it! Unfortunately, many sections of BBC site are not available in my area...
    In Russian we have some similar expressions involved sows with similar meanings too. However, they refer to the places they leave in - not groups!


  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Inna-L,
    It's quite the same here. I've become all but addicted to this site. Whenever I check my e-mails I have to take a look if there are any new posts or comments here.
    By the way - I am a bit reluctant to admit it - I used to study Russian too, but I'm afraid I've forgotten most of it. That's what happens when you don't practise a language, alas, alas...


  • Comment number 14.

    Dear friends
    While expecting our Carrie to publish her post let me tell you an elephant jok:
    What time is it when a herd of ten elephants are chasing you?
    Ten after one!
    Have a nice weekend

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi everyone,
    It's so much fun reading all your comments to each other, I don't really want to give you the answers, as it means you'll stop! Mind you, not many people have asked me to find the elephants yet....

    Before I give you the answers...
    -Danny - you are clever to spot the sarcasm (even if it was unintentional) - clearly I take things far too seriously!
    -Natalie - I promise you, English babies wouldn't know the answers! Not even most English university students. And if you think I'm clever, I'm not - I had to look most of them up!
    -Inna-L - thank you for your idea for BBC Learning English producers: I'll pass it on to them!

    Anyway, I suppose I'd better put you all out of your misery (may I say you all did a brilliant job!) These are the most common collective nouns, although there are others.
    fish: a shoal or a school
    birds: flock
    caterpillars: army
    dolphins: pod or school
    wolves: pack
    camels: flock
    bats: colony
    owls: parliament

    And just for Danny...here's another elephant joke:
    Q: Why are elephants wrinkled?
    A: Have you ever tried to iron one?

  • Comment number 16.

    Thank you for the answers, Carrie!
    Mind you, we might as well carry - or carrie;)- on commenting...
    I'm sure there must be other elephant jokes around!
    So, it's a flock of camels, is it? As fas as I can see, none of us would have guessed. No camel experts among us. I think I'll need a mnemonic device to make myself remember:
    Birds of a feather flock together -
    and so do camels in bad weather.
    By the way, since it's the eighth of June today - what about finding elephants no. 68 and 86 for us??
    Thank you!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Carrie, I've been trying to log in the past 2 weeks but was unsuccessful. I want to thank you for sharing the pictures with us and to have found nro 100!
    It's always a pleasure to read your blogs. Must hit the sack now. Take care.
    Cris (BA- Argentina)

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear Carrie and friends
    It was so nice to have again the feeling of being a student in so talented and qualified group (or band... or company ..) led by wonderful lecturer.
    Carrie, by the way, what is the explanation to use "parliament" as the collective noun for owls? Any way if I have to suggest a collective noun for our members of parliament I would say "pack".
    I hope to meet all of you here soon

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Carrie,
    I hope Londoners aren't too superstititous, so would you show us the picture of the elephant no.13. It's my lucky number. Thanks.
    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 20.

    Thank you for my new challenges: you should be able to see elephants 13 and 86 above - plus elephant 243, because i really liked the look in its eyes!

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank you, Carrie!

    Let me guess - no. 13 was decorated by an Irish artist, or at least by someone who has lived in Dublin at some point of his or her life, or is fond of Dublin. Do you happen to know?
    And I can identify very well with no. 86 - it's just the way I feel sometimes. Are they "marching" on clouds, by the way??


  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Elisabeth,

    I think they are supposed to be clouds, although they are the wrong colour....

    The artist for number 13 is Ratchadapol Mueannoo - I can't find anything out about this artist, except that they have designed other elephants for other Elephant Parades around the world!

    By the way, I've just taken a look at the online bidding for the elephants. Number 198 has a bid on it for £50,000!!!


  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Carrie,

    Well, now you've made me - and probably not just me - really curious! We haven't seen that one yet, have we??
    Thank you for replying so promptly to my inquiry after the artist of no. 13 - doesn't sound Irish after all. The design reminded me very much of the doors of Dublin though.
    Can't wait to see that record-bid elephant...

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi there,

    Number 198 was easy to find, as it's at Somerset House, just opposite our building....or at least I thought it would be easy to find! In fact, it was hidden at the end of a long corridor - partly because it can't stand out in the rain, and partly because it is now so valuable!


  • Comment number 25.

    Dear Carrie and friends
    Number 198 is realy outstandind work.I would name it "An Earlephant".

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Carie and all of our dear English Teachers,
    in this England's dramatic day I wish you don't to lost heart too much, it's all just a play, after all (although I was in shocking blue in first moments). I hope you are less football fans than of Tennis's.
    Dear Carie, I'd like to say Thank you so much for your picture of elephant no. 13 it's very beatiful as such I expected and now I can to admire with the beatiful picture by courtesy of yours. Thanks again.
    P.S. I will answer a bit later to your new theme's My week question.
    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi everyone,

    Here's an update on those elephants. Number 198 eventually sold for £70,000 - however, it wasn't the most expensive: one elephant sold for £150,000!

    Number 13 sold for £9,105
    Number 48 sold for £12,008
    Number 86 sold for £12,00
    Number 100 sold for £4,750
    Number 243 sold for £20,000

    The grand total raised was £4,148,675
    Isn't that fantastic!


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