Swan Upping is the annual census of the swan population on stretches of the River Thames in the counties of Middlesex,
Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. It takes place during the third week of July each year. This historic
ceremony dates from the 12th century, when the English Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans. At that time swans
were regarded as a delicious dish at banquets and feasts.Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute
swans in open water, but the monarchy only exercises the right of ownership on certain stretches of the River
Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted
rights of ownership by the Crown in the 15th century. Nowadays, of course, the swans are no longer eaten!
In the Swan Upping
ceremony, The Queen's Swan Marker and the Swan Uppers of the Vinters' and Dyers' livery companies use six traditional Thames
rowing skiffs in their five-day journey up-river. The officials wear traditional scarlet uniforms and each boat flies appropriate
flags and pennants. When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry of "All up!" is given to signal that the boats should get into
position. On passing Windsor Castle, the rowers stand to attention in their boat with oars raised and salute "Her Majesty
The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans". The cygnets are weighed and measured to obtain estimates of growth rates and the birds
are examined for any sign of injury (commonly caused by fishing hooks and line). The swans are also given a health check and
ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, the Professor of Ornithology at the University of
Oxford's Department of Zoology. The swans are then set free again. The Queen's Swan Marker produces a report at the completion
of Swan Upping each year, which provides data on the number of swans accounted for, including broods and cygnets.
Swan Upping provides important data which enables suitable conservation methods to be used to protect the swans. A serious
decline in the swan population in the mid-1980s was halted by the replacement of lead fishing weights with a non-toxic equivalent,
but growing demands for recreational use of the river by anglers and boat users has resulted in an increasingly hazardous
habitat. Vandalism and the theft of cygnets also create threats to the swan population.
Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties: he advises organisations throughout the country
on swan welfare and incidents involving swans, he monitors the health of local swan populations, and he briefs fishing and
boating organisations on how to work with existing wildlife and maintain existing natural habitat. He works closely with swan
rescue organisations and carries out the rescue of sick and injured swans when relevant, and he co-ordinates the temporary
removal of swans from stretches of the River Thames used for summer rowing regattas.