The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt: A Review

Last week I was sent a copy of Stephen Rutt’s first book – “The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds”, by the publishers, Elliott & Thompson.

It was an unexpected surprise and “The Seafarers” is one of those great joys of a book that is part autobiographical of the author, biographical of the birds he writes about and full of information and detail of those birds. Be they the charismatic Puffin or the extinct Great Auk the author writes a treatise on each and every bird he sees on his journey, and their homes and habitats.

Stephen Rutt has written a lyrical and delightful story, it is a book written from the heart and takes the reader to the homes of the birds where the author has been as part of his career and where he has escaped to, away from a more hectic life. He writes delightfully about each of the species he encounters, some that will be very familiar to the reader, but possibly many that won’t be and in each case he writes so that we all become familiar with each one. He makes the facts and details of those species accessible to the reader in such a way that it is easy to loose oneself in the story and picture each bird for it’s own character.

The book is also full of references and sources so that the reader can also look further for those species that capture their imagination or want to know more about – I found myself tapping in urls to look at other details of species. I know that I’ll be returning to this great book to reread the sections on those species that are close to my heart, but also as a point of wider reference to other species.

I look forward to reading the next book from this author, although I acknowledge that he has set his own bar very high.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

From The Publisher:

In 2015 Stephen Rutt escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London to spend seven months at the bird observatory on North Ronadlsay, the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago. His time there among the seabirds changed him.

The Seafarers is published on 23rd May 2019 by Elliott & Thompson.

About The Author:

Stephen Rutt is a writer, birder and naturalist. He studied on the literature and environment MA at Esses University and has written for Earthlines Magazine, Zoomorphic, The Harrier, Surfbirds and BirdGuides amongst others. As a teenager, he interned with Birdguides.co.uk and in 2015 he spent seven months at the bird observatory in North Ronaldsay. Stephen lives in Dumfries and The Seafarers is his first book.

Percy Sweeps The Chimney

We’d been having problems with flies over the last few days. There were way more getting into the house than is normal, and even with the hot weather it was abnormal.

I was pretty sure that this meant something had died somewhere and the life cycle of death was taking place. If you look this up on the internet you find that there is a sequence that takes a few days and manifests first as blowflies (you’ll probably think of them as “Greenbottles”), and then the aptly named flesh flies.

I reached the point yesterday where I’d had enough. The majority of flies seemed to be in the lounge and so I shut myself in there and spent 20 mins trying to kill every fly in the room. I was pretty sure that I’d gotten them all so I sat for another half-an-hour looking at the window, where the flies had seemed to be gathering. I was thinking that perhaps they were in the wall cavity, and had found a gap somewhere that they could squeeze through.

And I sat.

And then a fly flew over my head, from behind me. I thought it was one that I’d missed from the early genocide, so I dispatched him to join the others.

And I sat.

And then another fly flew over my head, from behind me. Even I’m not that inefficient.

And then it dawned on me. The chimney.

There’s no longer a fireplace there, but the chimney is still there and open to the elements. We’ve had a sparrow fall down before and get caught behind the board that’s in front of the opening to prevent draughts, and we assisted him out. So it made sense that perhaps there was something else that had fallen down and was now decaying behind the board.

I cleared everything out of the way and moved the board, and several flies buzzed around my head, but I couldn’t see anything else untoward, until I shone my torch up the flue pipe and there, was a dead wood pigeon, jammed in the flue.

I donned some protective gear (I couldn’t find my dust mask, so had to go a bit wild west), and with a bin liner in one hand , carefully positioned beneath the flue, I reached up with the other hand and dislodged the pigeon.

In the end it wasn’t a difficult job, and there wasn’t too much mess to clear up, even though the pigeon had done a pretty good job of sweeping the chimney on his way down.

It’s also cleared up the fly problem almost instantaneously.

RIP Percy Pigeon, I’m not sure how you came to fall down the chimney in the first place, and I’m not sorry to see you removed from your temporary resting place, but I am grateful you’ve taken all your winged companions with you.

Swallows Return (Quick Links 121)

My car went in for it’s annual MOT this week, unfortunately it failed and needed some work, but all has been put right now, and it’s good to go for another year. I’ll need to get a couple of new tyres soon as well, but they’re good for a few more miles.

Not having a car for a couple of days meant a slight change in plans but I managed to get everything done, just perhaps not in the order I’d originally planned.


I mentioned last week about the blue tits gathering dog hair from the garden. Well I managed to capture them in action in this short video.


I saw my first Swallow of the year this week (a week later than last year). I haven’t seen any Swifts or House Martins yet, but they’re normally later sightings for me anyway. I also saw a couple of black caps just across the road from my house. They used to be regular garden visitors but I haven’t seen one in the garden for a couple of years, so it’s good to know that they’re still about, and maybe they might find the garden again.


Work – I heard back about the work that I was involved for the tender for a few weeks ago and unfortunately we were unsuccessful. This was very disappointing as I thought the bid was strong. As yet we’ve not had detailed feedback so I don’t know where we fell short, but I am quite interested to find out. This means that at the moment there is no paid work on the horizon, so I need to hustle a bit and get that changed around.

Had a couple of work related meetings but they’ve been in the diary for a while.


Allotment – The forecast for the weekend was wet, but in reality it has mostly been dry to this point at least. It meant I managed to finish clearing the old purple sprouting broccoli patch, dig it over and add some compost, ready for new crops. It will likely be the site of the coming years leeks and sweetcorn. For the latter I still need to devise my badger proof enclosure to stop them eating all the cobs before we get a chance.


Currently Reading – I finished   “Turning: Lessons from Swimming Berlin’s Lakes” by Jessica J. Lee [LINK]. Haven’t really gotten into anything else at this point, been a bit busy with other things.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


Total Ban on Neonicotinoids – [LINK] I’ve written about this numerous times here, but at long last a total ban on these chemical pesticides has been declared. Hopefully it’s in the nick-of-time, but it is good news for once. Understandably the manufacturers are not happy about it (but they wouldn’t be really would they), but everybody else seems happy.

 


A short one this week, hope you all have a good week ahead.

Nest Boxes

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I wrote a few weeks ago about cleaning the bird boxes ahead of this years nesting season, well it looks like I wasn’t a moment too soon as blue tits are checking out the sparrow box (above).

This particular box has been the most successful one in our garden since we’ve had it. As you can probably see it is actually three boxes together, the individual holes lead to separate nest boxes. It’s designed to attract house sparrows, who are communal nesters, but it’s never had a sparrow nest in it. Blue tits and great tits seem to enjoy it, but the sparrows seem to prefer the hedge.

Buzzards Overhead

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I was out at a meeting for a proportion of yesterday, when I came back I was sitting at my desk catching up on some emails, when I heard the distinctive call of a buzzard outside. I grabbed my camera and stepped outside.

There were two individuals and they seem to be having a lot of fun soaring and diving in the sky. I managed to capture a few images.

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Bird Friday

I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, looking out across the garden. We’d had a funny morning weather wise, going from bright and sunny to sleet, hailstones and squally rain. By now the sun was back and the birds active, in particular a female blackbird, picking up sticks and leaves and other things and taking them into our honeysuckle bush. I think she’s nest building as there was quite a bit of tooing and froing collecting supplies, then back into the honeysuckle, which was rustling with her presence.

The blackcaps were back again too, again two male birds, so they’re obviously sticking around.

My afternoon dog walk was also full of birds. There was lots of bird song, and another buzzard sighting. This time the buzzard was soaring overhead, riding the air currents. I manage to snap a few photos on my phone.

Finally a little robin paid us an up close visit.

   
    
   
 

Leap Day Wildlife

I started the leap day off right with a buzzard sighting at the Fort. One (large) buzzard flew overhead as I was walking the dogs this morning, pursued by 2 crows. Strangely all 3 birds were silent, and if I hadn’t been looking at the time, I probably would have missed them.

Normally the crows call out and harass a buzzard they are trying to drive away, so that it draws attention to what they perceive as the interloper.

The buzzard gracefully slipped through the upper branches of the trees to shake off it’s pursuers.

A few steps later, I also saw some fresh deer prints in the mud, another good sign.