In pictures: Royal Swan Upping returns to River Thames

A major conservation exercise took place on the River Thames today as checks were carried out on the mute swan population.

The centuries-old tradition, known as the Royal Swan Upping, sees a flotilla of wooden skiffs travel from Sunbury to Abingdon to monitor the royal birds.

This year’s event took on extra importance after Windsor’s swan population was ravaged by an outbreak of bird flu earlier this year.

Royal swan marker David Barber, who led the operation, said: “We’ve been very concerned because we did have avian influenza here in the winter months and we lost 70-odd birds but the flock is just under the 200-mark.

“It’s the first time it really hit the Thames hard and it was very, very difficult to deal with in Windsor.

“We’ve had the odd case here and there but nothing like this, it was quite a shock to us.”

Swan uppers set off from Windsor and Eton Bridge at about 8.30am and discovered seven cygnets just past Boveney Lock.

As they travelled through Bray, they even got a helping hand from famous restaurant owner Michel Roux from The Waterside Inn.

The flotilla also received a visit from royalty as Princess Anne greeted them at the DB Marina, near Cookham Bridge.

The Princess Royal heard about the work of the swan uppers before meeting pupils from Cookham Rise Primary School.

Mr Barber added: “We’re still having a lot of shootings and dog attacks which is rather frustrating for us.

“That’s why we’re having lots of school children along as we try to educate them on the different problems.

“The youngsters can learn about the boats we use and the river and hopefully appreciate wildlife in the future.”

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