"Swan Upping" on the Thames
This week it’s time again for the annual royal census of swans – a tradition dating back to the 12th century – on the River Thames, in an activity known as “swan upping” which seeks to count and observe all of these birds, traditionally property of the monarch, on the river. Swan upping is undertaken by the scarlet-clad “Swan Uppers” and their leader the “Swan Marker”. The "Swan Warden" checks the swans for signs of disease and injury before ringing the birds with individual identification numbers and releasing them. A procession of six traditional rowing boats will search for swans and their cygnets (babies) on the Thames in Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Schools from this area will all be invited to watch the ancient tradition.
Even today the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked swans in open water, although in practice this privilege is only exercised by the queen on certain stretches of the Thames. The presence of disease in the swans will be monitored particularly closely this year after an outbreak of duck virus enteritis, a virus which has affected the mute swan population of the Thames.