The Royal Swan Upping has begun, but this year the Swan Uppers are worried about the numbers of the cygents.
In 2015, only 83 cygents were counted compared to the 120 that were counted in 2014. The drop in numbers was due to illegal shooting of the swans with air rifles. This year the worry is the spike in dog attacks on the Queen’s birds. The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber spoke of the problem, saying: “Hopefully, this year, we can this year go back up to sort of round about the hundred mark, we would be happy with. But we’ll just have to see. It’s one of those things, there’s lots of attacks have been going on, so until we get through the week, we won’t know.”
Barber further explained the age-old tradition: “This is the annual event of Swan Upping,
“It’s a five-day journey up the River Thames to look after the welfare of the Thames swans.”
As Seigneur of the Swans, meaning Lord of the Swans, Queen Elizabeth owns all mute swans on open water. Once a year Her Majesty sends a six-ship flotilla of row boats to count, measure and check the condidtion of the birds of the River Thames- the only place she exercises her riht as Seigneur of the Swans.
While this once ment the swans were captured for food to be served at banquets it is now soley for the purpose of education and conservation.
The boats surrond the cygents and once captured the birds are brought to land to be counted and tagged
“Every family we come to, every brood – as we call them – the six traditional rowing skiffs will go round the brood, we will pick them out of the water, we will then take them ashore, we will weigh them, measure them and check them for any injuries,” Barber said.
“The swan has a more difficult, let’s say, life on the Thames where there’s lots more boats, there’s pollution, people want to fish, so they do struggle a bit,
“We have things like mink now, are on the Thames, and they take young cygnets, so the conservation side is extremely important.”
The event is also popular attraction for onlookers. Kate Turner was just one of many who was attraced to the first day.
“It’s a good old English tradition and there’s not enough of them,” she said
“And I adore the Queen and the royal family and anything to do with them, this is what this is and I think it’s wonderful.”
“The work she does to this day I don’t do and I’m in my 70s, goodness knows, 90? She should have been in one of the boats, directing operations with her tiara on of course.”