Wintering by Stephen Rutt

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

It is only very occasionally that I see skeins of geese flying overhead around where I live. However, when I do it is quite a sight to see thirty or more birds in that distinctive V formation that they have. They are passing overhead to reach Poole Harbour home to many wading birds. When I go to Poole Park I always see the giant Canada goose that seems to have made this country it’s home too. But the regular native geese are not quite as big, and if you look carefully there then you can see some of them too.

Whilst Rutt has always been a bird fan, it wasn’t until he went to live in Scotland near the Solway Firth, that he became more aware of the geese that were there. He sees thousands of pink-footed geese arriving in his hometown as they head south from the far north and Arctic.

With these arrivals comes winter.

This goose, along with the Barnacle, Greylag, Brent Bean and White-fronted become an obsession for him, he follows the skeins through the skies, revelling in the connections that they bring him to distant lands and the rhythm of the seasons. They brighten a bleak, dreich day, dragging him from a cursor blinking on a blank document to windswept fields in search of them.  This interest becomes an obsession and it will take him to different parts of the country in search of these magnificent birds. Heading south for Christmas, they celebrate it with a goose, a domesticated bird that has been eaten for over 3000 years now. Spending time away from the regular day to day stuff gives him time to ponder how humans and geese have interacted over that time.

In some ways, it is quite difficult to believe that this is the second book that Rutt has had published in the same year. He is quite an accomplished writer and like his first, The Seafarers, this has just the right mix of fact and anecdote tied together with a strong narrative. There are some personal elements in here, but no more than is needed to add context to what he is writing about. One for the nature lovers bookshelf.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    I need to get this one. I do like a goose and am fond of the Egyptian ones, which are quite beautifully marked. Although we’re in Birmingham there are a few bodies of water around so I quite often see skeins moving from one to another, too, as well as encountering them along the canals and in the parks (and sheltering my goose-fearing friends from them). Did I know you’re near Poole? My cousins and aunty live in Muscliffe and Parkstone and we’ve had a lovely day in the Arne reserve and one on Brownsea Island.

    • Paul

      I am just north of Poole in Wimborne. Arne is really nice and fairly easy to get to from us.

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