Declining swan population on the River Thames

On Wednesday this week, at the Camberley & District Probus Club January lunch, we were treated to an after lunch talk by David Barber, The Queen’s Swan Marker.

In 2014 the Club hired a Thames riverboat to follow the Swan Uppers from Staines to Windsor, so many club members had close-up views of Swan Upping. The excellent and informative brochure of the Royal Swan Upping describes Swan Upping, and the Daily Telegraph reported on the 2016 Swan Upping, and interviewed David Barber.

Apart from the Crown, David Barber said, only three organisations had retained rights to own swans. The Illchester family who own the swan breeding colony in Abbotsbury in Dorset, and two Livery Companies – the Vintners and the Dyers. In a photo below you can see the Vintners skiff with a red pennant, the Dyers skiff with a blue pennant, and the Royal Swan Marker with his royal pennant.

The whole exercise of Swan Upping today is one of care and conservation of the population of mute swans. David reported that the numbers of cygnets – young swans – has been declining over the past few years. Only 72 cygnets were recorded this year, compared to 83 in 2015 and 120 in 2014.

Swan and cygnet predation is from dog attacks, shootings from air rifles, theft of the birds for consumption, mink, foxes, and even red kites. David Barber sees education – mostly the answer everything – as the best way to mitigate some of these issues.

I was happy to have my photo taken with David, and the other photos are from our Swan Upping day in 2014.


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