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The white, long-necked swan gliding along the River Thames looks serene, but his life is full of danger.Known as swan upping, the five-day census is a uniquely British mix of ceremony and science that has been taking place since the 12th century.Barber has been leading swan upping expeditions for more than 20 years, accompanied by a zoologist and a score of boatmen clad in three liveries: red for the queen, white for the Worshipful Company of Vintners and blue for the Worshipful Company of Dyers. The last two are medieval London trade guilds granted ownership of some Thames swans in the 15th century.On the first day of the census Monday, the "swan uppers" – those who lift the swans out of the water – made their way upstream in wooden rowing skiffs between banks overhung by willows and chestnut trees.There are about 1,000 swans along this stretch of the river, still down from the 1950s' level.
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