Wintering. A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
This is Stephen Rutt’s second book this year, I reviewed his first, “Seafarers” and noted that he’d set the bar very high for himself in terms of his next book. Well, here it is and I’m pleased to say that the bar is very much maintained and possibly exceeded with Wintering.
Like Seafarers there is an element of autobiography from the author, but again this is a biography of the birds, or at least the time that they spend on our shores when visiting us from their summer breeding grounds.
Rutt interweaves his life in Scotland, as he is finishing his previous book, with his interactions and observations of the different species of geese. With visits to other parts of the UK he sees other species and in each case interweaves his observations with those of the likes of Aldo Leopold, Sir Peter Scott and others. Like Scott he also mulls the ethics hunting / eating geese and that the role of goose is more than just as wildlife – foodstuff, feathers for quilts & clothing, guard animal etc, and perhaps that a goose is for more than Christmas.
As with his previous book Rutt writes openly and his style is such that it is like being next to him when he’s in the field, he writes with skill and the observations of the geese are beautiful. As the author found, the geese are captivating and so are his descriptions of them. As I write these words a skein a dark-bellied brent geese fly over my home and I’m thinking back to the words of the book and whether there’s a black brant amongst them (something that I’ve yet to see!)
The historical research and references add depth to the story. If I have but one complaint it is that the book is on the short side and it left me wanting for more, but then wintering geese don’t visit us for long either, so perhaps that’s a reflection of their stay.
I’d also like to give a hat-tip to Elliott & Thompson Books. I’ve reviewed a number of their books this year and I am consistently impressed with the quality and beauty of their covers and bindings.
If you’re stuck for a Christmas present this year for someone who’s “into their birds”, then getting them both Wintering and The Seafarers would make them very happy, but then again why wait for Christmas!