Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All The Queen's Swans

Leda and the Swan 
For more amazing depictions
Click here (it goes to a Wikipedia page)
Making a joke awhile back, while out walking with James, passing the area where a vast majority of local swans inhabit, we joked.

"Best.chicken.wings.ever!", laughing loudly and then wondering how swan tastes. Seriously...we eat animals...why not swan?

Yes, by the way, we do speak like that, "in Tweet" on occasion. We actually say out loud many of the things that end up on Twitter. Sad. We know. James is super least that's what he says, backed with loving sarcasm.


So we asked James about eating them.

Come to find out you actually can't eat swan here, despite there being many of them, because the Queen owns them, technically. She actually shares ownership with two companies  The Vinters and The Dyers Company, the only private owners of swans on the River Thames.

Owns them?

Sort of.

They are protected by her, at least one of the breeds are, much like a state flower or bird can be considered protected in each state of the United States.

There was even a Keeper of the Swans dating as far back as the 13th century, until 1993 when it was split between two other offices in the, Warden, and Marker, of the Swans - both offices take part in what is called The Upping of the Swans, which takes place in mid-July and is the process of reporting on the health and status of the Queen's swan populations, and when they tag the cygnets (baby swans).

The Queen claims ownership to the Mute Swans, which are the type with the red beak and frequent the River Thames. There are two other types that winter in England called the Whooper and Bewick's swan, which have black and yellow bills.

Swans have been referenced in art and poetry through the ages, and are steeped in lore from Medieval England, 3rd century Greece, to Native American symbolism, Chaucer and Gibbons and 15th century Dutch engraver, Reinier van Persijn. Despite many metaphorical references in writing and poetry, the 'swan song', the single beautiful song of the swan right before death, is a myth. While they are not considered very vocal, the Mute Swan is the quietest of the breeds of swans.

In the Middle Ages swans were considered a delicacy and served at Christmas feasts, and other important gatherings, primarily because it is a game bird that does not feed off of carrion (dead animal carcass), and therefore a cleaner animal. Swans are now protected from being consumed in England.

We have a strange fascination with swans. We can't walk into town center without seeing at least a pair of them, or an entire flock. We've photographed them so many times they are probably used to us now, though we approach them with a healthy respect, particularly when they are in the water and glide towards us, no doubt expecting bread, which we never bring them.

Locally they have been known to keep people off of the walking path next to the river when their offspring are near. The large birds, some of the heaviest flying ones in existence, can stand between 55-67 inches (4-5 1/2 feet) in height, and have a massive wingspan of nearly 8 feet. They have have fairy cute babies, which grown to be less attractive in their "teen" years, and are dirty in appearance, until they mature between the ages of 3 and 4 years old, and then are a majestic and beautiful creature. They can live 10-12 years, but have been known to live for up to 20. While they are do not make noise, they are known as hissers, are extremely aggressive and have been known to snap a mans arm with their strength.

Guess it's no wonder we have an interest in them. Some days they feel the bird embodiment of us, look...but do not approach.

People who follow us on Facebook know we like to photograph the swans, we add new ones at least once a week. Time to share with you unlucky folk, if you made it this far, some of the better photos.

Sadly we are not sure if we have any photos of the Mute Swans, most seem to be the other breeds. We hope we are here when their eggs hatch later in the spring.


1 comment:

  1. I have always been fascinated by swans. Beautiful and serene.