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U.K. announces the start of its annual swan census. Wait, what?

July 5, 2009 | 10:03 am

Swans It's that time again in England -- time, that is, for two people with some of the strangest job titles we've ever heard to conduct the queen's annual swan census along a stretch of the River Thames.

David Barber, the Queen's Swan Marker (one of those strange job titles we mentioned), recently announced that the Royal Swan Upping will commence July 20 and run through  July 24.  Reuters reports:

According to custom, Britain's sovereign owns all unmarked, mute swans in open water, but the Queen now exercises the right only on stretches of the Thames and its nearby tributaries.

In medieval times, the Swan Marker would not only travel up the river counting the swans, but would catch as many as possible as they were sought-after for banquets and feasts.

But what's the Queen's Swan Marker without his bird-counting cohort, the Queen's Swan Warden?  Nothing, we say.  Fortunately, the aforementioned Swan Warden,  Christopher Perrins, a professor at the University of Oxford,  also will be present to check the birds for any signs of injury or disease.  (Any swans needing medical attention will be taken to a rescue organization.)

Injury to the swans is a legitimate concern, according to Barber.  "There has been a reported increase in attacks on both young cygnets and adult swans involving domestic dogs over the past year," the Swan Marker said in a statement.  "These attacks are a major concern to swan rescue organizations, resulting in serious injuries and often death."

Moral (if there can be one) of the story?  Keep dogs away from swans (as if there weren't already enough video evidence to convince us this is a wise policy).  Now just one question remains: When will an enterprising group of young musicians start a glam band called Swan Warden?  We're on the edge of our seats.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Swans along the waterfront at Lake Geneva, Switzerland.  Credit: Salvatore di Nolfi / European Pressphoto Agency

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