Published 27 June 2016

Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames, was announced today by David Barber, The Queen’s Swan Marker.

This year’s Swan Upping will start on Monday 18th July departing from Sunbury lock cut, and will finish at Abingdon Bridge, Oxfordshire on Friday 22nd July.

Announcing the schedule for Swan Upping, David Barber reported:

“We are hoping for an increase in cygnet numbers in 2016 as the total number of cygnets recorded during Swan Upping 2015 was a disappointing 83 compared to 120 in the previous year.  Once again this year, vandalism has affected many breeding pairs; eggs have been stolen and swans have been attacked by dogs while on their nests in the Caversham, Hurley, Marlow and Maidenhead areas.  Sadly, some of the injuries sustained by the parent birds have been fatal, resulting in young cygnets struggling to survive on their own against the ever present threats of natural predators.  Without the adult birds being present to protect them, many cygnets do not survive such attacks.

"As part of our aim to promote education and the welfare of mute swans, we ask members of the public to keep their dogs under control when in the vicinity of swans or other wildlife.  Apart from the obvious threat posed by a dog that is not under control, such attacks often result in serious injuries or fatalities being sustained by the swans.

"There are many primary schools visiting the Swan Uppers during the week, and there is a new educational leaflet for schools visiting Swan Upping to help teach children about the ecology of mute swans, the history of Swan Upping and the boats used.”

Local schools seeking further information about Swan Upping week should contact the Swan Marker’s office on 01628 523030 or email [email protected]

Download a copy of the Swan Upping educational booklet

The observation points and times are as follows (all times given are approximate):

Monday 18th July 2016

  • Sunbury Lock Cut 09.00 - Departure point
  • Shepperton Lock 10.45
  • Penton Hook Lock 12.30
  • Romney Lock 17.30

Tuesday 19th July 2016

  • Eton Bridge 08.45 - Departure point
  • Boveney Lock 09.45
  • Boulters Lock 13.00
  • Cookham Bridge 14.00
  • Marlow Lock 17.30

Wednesday 20th July 2016

  • Marlow Bridge 09.00 - Departure point
  • Hurley Lock 10.30
  • Hambleden Lock 12.00
  • Henley Town 13.30
  • Marsh Lock 15.30
  • Shiplake Lock 17.00
  • Sonning Bridge 18.00

Thursday 21st July 2016

  • Sonning-on-Thames 09.00 - Departure point
  • Caversham Lock 10.15
  • Mapledurham Lock 12.15
  • Goring Lock 17.00
  • Moulsford 18.00

Friday 22nd July 2016

  • Moulsford 09.00 - Departure point
  • Benson Lock 10.15
  • Clifton Hampden Bridge 13.00
  • Culham Lock 16.15
  • Abingdon Bridge 17.00

Press Boat

The press boat will depart Shepperton Lock at 10.30 on Monday 18th July, Eton Bridge at 08.45 on Tuesday 19th July and Marlow Bridge at 09.00 on Wednesday 20th July.  Media wishing to reserve a place to board the press boat should contact the Swan Marker’s Office on +44 (0)1628 523030 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors

The ceremony of Swan Upping takes place during the third week of July every year.  Swan Upping dates from the twelfth century, when The Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans which were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts.  Today The Crown retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but The Queen mainly exercises this right on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies who were granted rights of ownership by The Crown in the fifteenth century. The swans are counted but are no longer eaten.

The Queen's Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey upstream to Abingdon. By tradition, scarlet uniforms are worn by The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant. Although Members of the Royal Family are not usually present during Swan Upping, The Queen travelled up the River Thames in 2009 to witness the historic ceremony.

It has always been the duty of the Sovereign’s Swan Marker to count the number of young cygnets each year and ensure that the swan population is maintained.  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 hook and line. With the assistance of The Queen’s Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, the swans and young cygnets are also assessed for any signs of disease.  The cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, whose role is scientific and non-ceremonial.  The Queen's Swan Marker produces an annual report after Swan Upping detailing the number of swans, broods and cygnets counted during the week.

Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties. He advises organisations throughout the country about swan welfare and incidents involving swans, gives talks to local schools and charities on the subject of swan welfare and Swan Upping, and monitors the health of the local swan population.  The Queen’s Swan Marker works closely with swan rescue organisations, supervises the rescue of sick and injured swans and advises fishing and boating organisations about how to work with wildlife.  He also co-ordinates the removal of swans from stretches of the River Thames used for summer rowing regattas.