Swans in Windsor

Following the theme of birds for a while… during the midst of the Olympic fever in the UK, I set about on a personal project which if it goes well, you’ll see details of shortly. The project is taking me out and about around Dorney Lake where the rowing competitions are taking place and to other strategic locations along the River Thames. Yesterday I wandered into Windsor from the general direction of Eton which, if anyone knows it, means crossing the Eton bridge. From the bridge I noticed a group of people feeding some swans and moved closer hoping to make an abstract composition of those gluttonous birds gorging.



During the third week in July, the curious spectacle of Swan Upping takes place along the Thames at various locations. Swan Upping is an annual ceremonial and practical activity in which mute swans along the River Thames, such as above, are rounded up, caught, marked, and then released.

Traditionally the Monarch of the United Kingdom (that is the Queen to you & I), retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but only exercises ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This dates from the 12th century, during which time swans were a common food source for royalty. These days Swan Upping is a means of establishing a swan census and also serves to check the health of swans. The census is conducted through a process of ringing the swan’s feet, but the swans are no longer eaten… well, not legally anyway but I’ve heard stories of the odd swan being hijacked for an “alternative” festive feast!

This year due to flooding of the river because of heavy rains, the ceremony was cancelled for the first time in its almost 900 year history.

I’m pleased to say that people are seemingly being a bit more responsible when feeding the swans – NOTE: they do NOT like bread and it is actually bad for them! It was good to see them being fed with proper swan food (?), though I don’t know the composition of said swan food, hopefully nutritious 🙂


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