Wintering. A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt: A Review

img_20190912_150521920Wintering. 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!

Wintering. A Season with Geese by Stephen Rutt is published by Elliott & Thompson on the 26th September 2019

 

Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

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.

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.

The Last Week Of The Year – Quick Links 31st December 2017

This is going to be short. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to exist at all or not.

It’s been a quiet and busy week in equal measure. We had a pleasant Christmas Day and Boxing Day, sharing them with my Mum, and exchanging a few gifts. I’ve got quite a few new books to read over the coming weeks, so that should keep me out of mischief if nothing else does!

The turkey was mysteriously very tough to eat, and not really that nice, which is a shame when you’ve gone to the trouble, but the rest of the meal was more than substantial, although I still didn’t have much of an appetite after being sick last week.

Unfortunately my Mum’s car broke down on Boxing Day – although we didn’t actually realise it at the time – just as she got home. She asked me to look at it the next day and although at first I couldn’t find a problem, when I took it for a drive it was evident that it was undrivable, and had to call the breakdown service. They were able to diagnose the problem but couldn’t fix it roadside, so towed the car to the garage where it stayed until they were able to get the relevant part and return it to us on Friday. No great problem, but a bit of a nuisance and a change in plans for the remainder of the week.

 


Work – I’ve been checking emails, and not doing much else. I still need to finish my 2018 planning and targets, but I wanted to reflect on these over the Christmas break and finish that in January.


Allotment – We’ve had snow, a lot of rain and some high winds this week, so not much  to report from the plot. I am however starting to think about next season, and I really need to look at what seeds & plants I need and get them ordered.


Currently Reading – I started Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” [GoodReads] and enjoying it so far. I suspect that it will see me into the New Year as it’s quite a big book and I seem to be reading quite slowly. Once that’s done I’m not sure what’ll be next as I have quite a few to choose from after Christmas.


That’s it for this week folks, I did say it would be short. There’ll be a Quarter Four review later and possibly something for the New Year on Monday. For now though, I hope you have a great New Years celebration if you do, and service will probably return to normal next Sunday or the Sunday after.

 

Merry Christmas – Quick Links 24th December 2017

Well ’twas the night before Christmas and all that. Whether you read this before, during or after I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Not sure what I’ll be posting next week, as both my Sunday Quick Links and my fourth quarter review are due on the same day. You may get one or both, but hopefully something. I also normally try to post something on New Years Day as well. Not that I am expecting anyone to read it on the day it goes live, as I’m sure you have much better things to do than read my ramblings. Anyway, if you have been reading these posts, thank you.

I was expecting a quiet week this week, and other than an appointment I attended with my Mum I’ve not really been anywhere. This is probably just as well as I’ve not been feeling very well, and think that I managed to catch a stomach bug on one of my rare trips out. I’m recovering now, but did at one point wonder whether it was going to be a pre-Christmas instant diet or something that would drag on over the festive period. Hopefully it’s the former.


Work – I’ve been doing my end of the month admin a little early, so that I can pretty much be work free next week. I’ll be checking my emails, but that will be about it and I’ll pick things up again the following week. I’ve been working on my targets for next year, and things need to get serious to develop at least some income.


Allotment – Not much to report this week, it’s been quite a mild week, and the ground has been a little soggy at times, so I’ve been staying off of the beds now that they’re dug.


Currently Reading – I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” [GoodReads] this week, there’s quite a bit of his life story in there as well as tips and approaches to writing, although I felt that I had read most of it in other places.


Neil Gaiman Reading A Christmas Carol – Audio version of the author reading the classic Dickens Christmas tale. [LINK]


Open Railway Map – Open source map of many of the worlds railways [LINK], pretty cool to look up your local lines.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


Brexit Is Going To Be Titanic – Exactly like the ship


Merry Christmas From The Muppets


Bird Spikes In Trees – Although this only came to light in the last week, it seems that this has been going on for a while – but why? As this other article points out, we are seemingly blind to the damage that we are doing to the planet.


Alarming Customer Service Fail From Amazon when they started sending “coded death threats” to a customer [LINK]. If this had been me I’m not sure I would have noticed, as I do read quite a few crime novels anyway.


Dolphins – Nice piece by author Philip Hoare [LINK]


The Future Worlds of Work – Although I haven’t read the full report yet, I do intend to but these different scenarios [LINK] for what the future of work will look like in 2030 are quite interesting on the surface. I think I far prefer the Green or Yellow versions but I suspect without intervention that the world is heading towards the Blue scenario. I might come back to this again once I’ve had a proper read.


That’s it for this week, catch you all again soon.

Starling Madness

I’ve been trying to capture a video of the starlings in our garden “eating” from our mealworm feeder – decimation would be a better adjective as they can empty it in minutes. I’m not sure whether this is deliberate to share the worms with their fellow birds or whether it’s just a consequence of their rather mad feeding behaviour on the feeder.

There are often three or four on the feeder, but this is a small proportion of the total flock of around 15 birds. The remainder are on the ground under the feeder, hoovering up the fallout.

Hope you enjoy the video, which is a series of clips edited together.