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Swan Upping in Cookham
21 July 2005)

Swan upping!!! The greatest tradition on the Thames!  This was the week the Queen's Swan Uppers, the Vintners' Swan Uppers, and the Dyers' Swan Uppers row up the river in skiffs to mark the mute swans. Swans caught by the Queen's Swan Uppers remain unmarked, those caught by the Dyers' are ringed on one leg, and those caught by the Vintners are ringed on both legs. Traditionally, the Monarch of the United Kingdom owns all unmarked mute swans on the River Thames. This dates from the Twelfth Century, during which swans were a common food source for royalty. Swan upping is a means of establishing a swan census. Under a Royal Charter of the Fifteenth Century, the Vintners' Company and the Dyers' Company, two Livery Companies of the City of London, are entitled to share in the Sovereign's ownership. They conduct the census through a process of ringing the swan's feet, but the swans are no longer eaten.

Arriving in Cookham

Martin Spencer, The Queen's Swan Marker

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. 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 cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, whose role is scientific and non-ceremonial.

Are these Trespassers on the Queen's Boat?

The Boats Pull in at the Ferry Inn

Boats of the Vintners and the Dyers

The Queen's Boat

Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties: he advises local 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 habitats. He works closely with swan rescue organisations and carries out the rescue of sick and injured swans when relevant, and coordinates the removal of swans from stretches of the river Thames used for summer rowing regattas.

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