Marlow Swans by Paul Warham from Middle Thames Bird Conservation Trust

  • Feeding the Mute Swans in Higginson Park is a popular past-time for both young and old. More than 50 birds gather here in the winter, waiting expectantly for any handouts of bread or grain. But where do they come from?

    During the annual Swan Upping, some of the swans are fitted with a coloured (usually orange or white) plastic ring on their left leg, inscribed with large black letters. The lettering can be easily read by eye, or from a photo on a mobile phone.

    If you submit the ring details to the British Trust for Ornithology, you will hear back on where and when your bird was ringed, and how old it is.
    This winter I have recorded the ring numbers of over twenty swans. The oldest was ringed at Eton in June 2002, making it over 18 years old. This is not exceptional for a Mute Swan, the oldest record in the BTO ringing database is 29 years.
    One bird had travelled downstream from Shillingford (26km in a straight line/ 57km along the river) and another upstream from Windsor (15km in a straight line/32km along the river). Others had moved from connecting rivers, such as the River Colne at Rickmansworth (22km straight line).

    So if you’d like to enjoy learning more about Marlow’s swans and at the same time contribute to our knowledge of how they are faring, please visit our website:

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