Swan Upping, an annual ceremony dating back to the twelfth century, will start on the 17th of July.
Swan Upping is a yearly census of the swan population along the River Thames.
Announcing the schedule for this year journey along the River Thames was the Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber who said: “There has been a consistent decrease in Cygnet numbers over recent years and we are very much hoping that we will see a reversal in this trend in 2017.”
David Barber highlighted that dog attacks have caused “unnecessary suffering” to swans and eggs has been stolen and nests vandalised.
Since the twelfth century, the Crown has claimed ownership of all swans in the country. In fact, The Queen even has the title of Seigneur of the Swans meaning Lord of the Swans.
This right came about due to the birds being in high demand for banquets and feasts. The Crown could grant landowners the right to the swans in their area. The only two companies to still have that right are the Vintners’ Company and the Dyer’s Company.
While the Swans are still not eaten the census is still carried out. Over the course of five days the Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber, will be joined by Swan Uppers from the Vintner’s and Dyer’s livery companies.
They will row up the Thames in traditional skiffs in a scarlet uniform. Cygnets are caught, weighed, and checked for injury. The Cygnet is then tagged with an identification number which denotes if they belong to the Dyers or the Vintners. All birds belonging to the Crown are left unmarked.
Beyond ceremony and tradition, an important role of this event is education. Local children from schools visit the riverbanks during the ceremony to learn about the swans and their cygnets. The Swan Marker also has the important duty of visiting local schools to educate young people in the conservation effort.