The Queen's Swan Marker begins the annual combined census and health visit for swans and their young on the River Thames. Elly Park reports.
It's an age-old tradition that might ruffle some feathers. The annual swan census, called the Swan Upping is underway on the river Thames, with the Queen's Swan Marker, David Barber taking an official count of the birds. SOUNDBITE: Swan Marker to the Queen, David Barber, saying (English) "It's swan upping and it dates right back to the twelfth century, when swans then were very, very important food. Of course today swans are no longer eaten and the journey of swan upping now is a five day journey." The Queen owns every swan swimming in open waters, and the upping has Barber and his crew count, tag and weigh the birds they encounter along the 79 mile or 127 kilometer stretch of the river. The modern upping is also about conservation. SOUNDBITE: Swan Marker to the Queen, David Barber, saying (English) "Quite a common injury would be fishing tackle and we de-tackle quite a lot of young cygnets." It's an important task as the number of birds has declined sharply in recent years. Last year, the team tagged 72 cygnets, while the years before they found 83, and 120 young birds.