Swan Upping 2021

Published 22 June 2021

Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames will take place for three days in July 2021. 

Swan Upping will commence on Tuesday 20th July from Eton Bridge, Berkshire and will finish at Moulsford on Thames, Oxfordshire on Thursday 22nd July. 

Announcing the schedule for Swan Upping 2021, The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber commented: 

“Members of the public have been extremely observant during the Covid-19 lockdown and have reported many injured swans. This has enabled them to be rescued and treated promptly which has avoided unnecessary suffering. 

“This year, the breeding season has been successful in terms of cygnet numbers and there has been a decrease in the number of dog attacks on swan nests reported. However, we have seen a vast increase in the incidence of pollution on the river over the same period; engine and diesel oil deposited in the water along with other debris and pollutants cause serious problems for swans and other water borne wildlife. These situations are entirely avoidable and have a devastating impact upon both the wildlife and the environment.” 

As well as the conservation work that Swan Upping encompasses, Swan Uppers continue to focus on the education of primary age children. Several primary schools will therefore join the Swan Uppers on the river where they will learn about the biology of mute swans, the impact of pollution and the Royal connection to swans. 

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

The observation points and times are as follows, (please note all timings are approximate): 

Tuesday 20th July 2021 

Eton Bridge – 08.30 (Departure point) Boveney Lock – 09.15
Boulters Lock – 12.30
Cookham Bridge – 13.15 
Marlow Lock – 17.30 

Wednesday 21st July 2021

Marlow Bridge – 09.00 (Departure point)
Hurley Lock – 10.30
Hambleden Lock – 12.15
Henley Bridge – 13.00 
Marsh Lock – 15.15
Shiplake Lock – 17.00
Sonning Bridge – 18.00 

Thursday 22nd July 2021 

Sonning Bridge – 08.45 (Departure point) Caversham Lock – 10.15
Mapledurham Lock – 12.30
Goring Lock – 16.15 
Moulsford – 17.15 

Press Boat 

The press boat will depart from Eton Bridge at 8.30 am on Tuesday 20th July, Marlow Bridge at 09.00 am on Wednesday 21st July and Sonning Bridge at 8.45 am on Thursday 22nd 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 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 Queen's Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their journey upstream. By tradition scarlet uniforms are worn by The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant. In recent years, both The Queen and The Princess Royal have travelled up the River Thames 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. 

The Queen's Swan Marker also 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.