Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Swan numbers decline after being shot at

THE number of swans in the Henley area continues to decrease, according to this year?s official count

THE number of swans in the Henley area continues to decrease, according to this year?s official count.

Only one breeding pair with four cygnets was discovered during the swan upping on the Thames on Wednesday.

David Barber, the Queen?s swan marker, said there had been a similar decline elsewhere on the river.

He blamed it on vandals killing the birds with air guns and cygnets getting caught in discarded fishing lines.

This year?s ceremony began at Sunbury on Monday and finishes at Abingdon Bridge today (Friday).

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Only nine birds were found between Hambleden Lock and Mill Meadows. In addition to the family, the markers picked up another pair with no cygnets and a solitary adult. A typical breeding pair lays six eggs a year, which hatch in late March or April, but many cygnets die before reaching adulthood. In 2013 and 2014, the census discovered one breeding pair with six cygnets.

Swan upping was called off in 2012 due to bad weather but there was a decrease on the numbers in 2011, which in turn was down on the previous year.

The tradition dates back to the 12th century, when the Crown declared ownership of all swans.

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Representatives of the Crown and the Vintners? and Dyers? Livery Companies travel down the Thames in traditional rowing skiffs in search of the birds. When they find a brood, they shout ?All up!? and take the family aboard their boats to weigh them and check their health. They either tag them with a livery company?s colours or leave them unmarked for the Queen before returning them to the water.

As this year?s convoy arrived at Mill Meadows, a small crowd gathered to greet them and take photographs. The party had lunch at the River and Rowing Museum before continuing upstream towards Marsh Lock and Sonning in the afternoon. Mr Barber, who lives in Henley, said: ?It has been all round a little slower than last year; we haven?t found so many cygnets. We were one-third down on previous years on the first day and although it?s a bit better coming up the river it?s still not as good as last year. We?ve had a lot of reported shootings by youngsters with air guns ? they?ve been shooting breeding pairs, which hasn?t helped. ?We?ve also had a lot more injuries through cygnets getting caught on fishing tackle. The majority of fishermen are fine but it?s the odd five per cent that spoil it by discarding lines in the water. ?We do get some predation by creatures like mink but most of the problem is man-made, which is disappointing.

?However, we are in constant communication with everyone from the RSPCA to the Environment Agency. Everybody is working together to solve the problem.?

Mr Barber has been the Queen?s swan marker since 1993 and was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2014 New Year Honours. CGI of the proposed new building' width='555' height='330' style=

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