As we sit down to enjoy our festive turkeys it is worth reflecting on the fact that other birds have also featured on the Christmas menu over time.

I recall that when a child we had goose one year and of course chicken is also a popular choice. But it has not always been like this and indeed, it is unthinkable nowadays to realize that in the middle ages mute swans were a sought after table delicacy until the bird was protected by law way back in 1397.

Nevertheless, swans remained a valuable commodity being traded between noblemen and dozens were  often eaten at banquets.

All swans on the Thames belong either to the Crown, the Vintners Company  or the Dyers Company. In the third week of July cygnets swimming up to Henley-on- Thames are rounded up when they are moulting and thus flightless and marked by having their beaks notched in a range of unique patterns in a ceremony known as 'swan upping' which dates back to the middle ages.

All swans left unmarked belong to the Queen who is officially appointed 'swan keeper'.

The swan population is slowly recovering from lead poisoning caused by discarded lead fishing weights which the birds ingested but now a ban has been imposed on lead weights.

So. our swans can rest over Christmas knowing they are safe from harm following many years of persecution.

May I take this opportunity to wish all readers the compliments of the season.