Swans, Royal Birds of the Thames

Kay Webb, of Swan Lifeline to give talk at Chiswick Pier House

Picture: Swan Lifeline

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Swans, Royal Birds of the Thames are the subject of the Chiswick Pier Trust’s talk on Tuesday 28 March.

Kay Webb, Chair of Swan Lifeline in Eton will talk about swans from all over the world including those much nearer to home in West London and their Royal connections.

The talk will include the annual Swan Upping ceremony on the Thames when mute swans are rounded up, caught, ringed, and then released. Contrary to popular belief, the Seigneur of the Swans, Queen Elizabeth II, doesn’t own all mute swans in the United Kingdom.

The Queen normally only exercises her rights to the birds on the Thames. At the Upping each year, the Vintners and the Dyers, join the Crown and row up 79 miles of the river in skiffs. Swans caught by the Queen's Swan Uppers are unmarked, except for a ring linked to the database of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Today, only swans with cygnets are caught and ringed. This gives a yearly snapshot as to how well Thames swans are breeding.

References to these majestic birds in classical literature include the belief that upon death the otherwise-silent mute swan would sing beautifully—hence the phrase swan song. The mute swan is also one of the sacred birds of Apollo, who is often shown riding a chariot pulled by or composed of swans.

These legendary birds are now perhaps best known from the story about a swan in "The Ugly Duckling" fable. But they are often a symbol of love or fidelity because of their long-lasting, apparently monogamous relationships, such as the famous ballet Swan Lake or the operas Lohengrin and Parsifal.

Despite their beauty and mythical status, these birds are at risk, and numbers are decreasing which is why Swan Lifeline was set up to save them. Risks include careless dog owners who let their animals roam near nests, fishing tackle which the swans eat, mink attacks and even shootings.

Doors open at 7pm and the illustrated talk will start at 7.30pm. Tickets are £3, or free to members of the Chiswick Pier Trust. Refreshments and signed copies of the book will be available to purchase.

For further information on the Pier and how to get there, contact the Chiswick Pier Trust 020 8742 2713, follow them on Twitter @ChiswickPier or visit the Chiswick Pier Trust website.

March 25, 2017

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