The Seafarers by Stephen Rutt

4 out of 5 stars

The insane craziness of London gets to people in many different ways and in 2015 it happened to Stephen Rutt. Rather than just downsize and move out to the country, he decided to take himself as far away from London as he could. This was why he found himself in North Ronaldsay, the most northerly of the Orkney Islands, at the bird observatory there. It is in these places where the open ocean meets the land where the birds that he is seeking, live. They thrive in these dynamic environments and Rutt’s experiences on these windblown edges of our coasts are the closest he can come to experiencing what an ocean-going bird feels. Most of our seabird colonies are located in Scotland and he is naturally drawn to these places, but he travels all over the UK,  from Wales to Northumberland to experience other colonies of birds and to uncover a little of the history between us and the seabirds.

Rutt has a really nice writing style, informative without feeling that you are being lectured too. He describes enough detail in the scenes that he sees in his prose that you feel like you are stood alongside him as he watches the skuas stoop towards his head, or standing in the dark listening to the shearwaters return to their nests, when he takes off in tiny rickety places to hop between the islands and is buffeted by the same winds that they fly in every day in the open ocean. Woven into all of this are his observations on the landscape and geology of the places with just enough history to add context. It is a great insight into the life of the birds he is following and has a wonderful resonance.  I can recommend this if you wish to know about the birds of the open ocean, skua, gannets and fulmars and also to be read in conjunction with the Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson, to get some idea of the threats that these birds are under.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Oh, I thought I left a comment on here and it’s vanished. I read this for Shiny New Books and my review should be out tomorrow. I really enjoyed it, though.

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