The Thames tradition of the Swan Upping Census this year (2017) began on Monday 17th July and takes 5 days to complete. The ceremony always takes place the third week of July. It began way back in the 12th Century.
The colourful ceremony is carried out by London’s Dyers and Vintners City Livery Companies with the Swan Maker. The Royal Swan Uppers wear a scarlet uniform of Her Majesty the Queen. They travel in six traditional Thames rowing skiffs between Sunbury and Abingdon in search of the swans. This takes 5 days and when they find any swans you hear the call “All Up!” and the swans are trapped between boats and caught. They are then weighed and assessed for any disease or illness. The cygnets are ringed with an identification number for future reference. The Queen has in the past witnessed this historic event.
The event is getting more and more popular but the swans have been diminishing over the past few years and the Swan Maker is hoping that this trend will have changed this year. There have been reports of large broods along the Thames this year, so hopefully this will be case.
The numbers have been reduced by shootings using air guns, which is completely meaningless and more injuries through cygnets getting caught up in fishing line. Also dogs have been known to kill and cause unnecessary stress to the swans, so people are asked to keep dogs well from swans and their cygnets or kept under better control.
Children and schools are invited to attend and meet the Swan Uppers to learn more about the swans and be able to ask questions and get more information on swans and wildlife in general. This is a good tool for educating people.
The Swan Marker, as well as completing a report every year with the numbers of swans and cygnets, has other duties throughout the year. He advises organisations and schools around the country about the welfare and incidents involving the swans. He is also in touch with the swan rescue organisations and supervises injured and sick swans.