Ask the Swan Specialist

Day #1 (Part 1) - Visiting Windsor Castle and The Swan Lifeline Rescue Ctr *Link*
By:Journal of The Regal Swan® Group Traveling in the UK
Date: 17 July 2007

We are headed to Windsor Castle this morning and then over to Swan Lifeline Rescue Center.

Swan Washing - BBC Show: We are going to meet Andy and Shirley there along with Wendy Hermon, from the swan-rescue center. We are scheduled to catch some birds along the Thames and wash them in Fairy Liquid® (to remove a Corynebacteria like microbe causing pink discoloration), for a BBC show, which is scheduled to air in September.

Windsor Castle: After having a quick breakfast we load into the taxis and are off for the 15-minute ride. As we drive up, we are amazed at not only the immensity of the castle but the fact that it is so close to the road.

We pay for our ticket and head inside. The Queen’s flag isn’t flying which means she is probably still at Buckingham Palace in London. However, we were told that she usually comes to Windsor for the weekend and with the Swan Upping ceremonies scheduled to begin on Wednesday, she could arrive at any time.

After a quick walk through the Castle grounds - you can’t go inside the Castle itself, only certain chambers or buildings - we head for some choice spots near St. George’s Cathedral for the changing of the guard ceremonies. The band enters through a special area while the guards are all properly placed for the 15-minute ceremony that also includes the playing of “One Moment In Time,” before the guards are replaced.

The Swans Of The Thames: Once the ceremony ends, we head out of the Castle and around the corner for a 10-minute walk where we are to meet Andy, Shirley and Wendy on the Windsor Bridge. Imagine looking down the St. John’s River, coated in Mute Swans instead of alligators. This is what it looks like along the Thames (see picture below).

The river is teeming with activity from boats cruising down the river with tourists, to houseboats out for a leisurely float, to row teams practicing for their next meet.

The Swan Lifeline Rescue Center: Wendy soon arrives and we head for a quick lunch. After a short briefing, during lunch, we head over to the center. Some of the team boards a boat for the short ride to the center while others are taken by car. As we pull up, the BBC is waiting for us.

Once inside the massive complex surrounded by the Thames, you see nothing but injured or sick swans. Many are on the mend, while others have just been caught or have had surgery. In one pen alone, there is at least 10 swans exhibiting the tell-tale signs of the pink discoloration caused from the Corynebacteria like microbe our team identified several months ago.

Capturing The Swans Is Not Easy: After a short meeting, we head onto two boats. Wendy, Sheila, Geoff and Shawn will be catching the swans while the rest of the team watches from the other boat. The one problem with the Thames is that access to the river isn’t level. You have to climb down several feet to enter the water or you have to try to catch the swans in the water, racing beside them, and grabbing their necks to lift them into the boat. It is somewhat of a challenge.

During the roundup, several swans are caught, including one on the team boat as the BBC film crew conducts interviews and films the entire process for their news story.

Swan Treatment At The Center: Once back at Swan Lifeline Rescue, the real work begins. The captured swans are taken to a wash area where they a liberally coated in Fairy Liquid® and water. As if by magic, the pink discoloration disappears and white feathers can once again be seen on the swans.

The Ceremony: Toast to the Queen: After several hours of washing, we are loaded onto boats for a quick trip up the Thames to a lock area where the Royal Swan Uppers will be arriving to give a toast to the Queen before proceeding down the Thames.

This ceremony is approximately 800-years-old.

We say a brief hello to Her Majesty’s Swan Warden, Dr. Christopher Perrins and Her Majesty’s Swan Marker, David Barber, before the ceremony begins.

Shawn Boschert and Sheila Bolin preparing to capture some swans along the Thames River.