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Good Reads  Ornithology  Non-Passerines  Seabirds, Shorebirds & Wildfowl

Wintering A Season with Geese

Nature Writing
By: Stephen Rutt(Author)
199 pages, no illustrations
Following hot on the heels of his award-winning book The Seafarers, Stephen Rutt returns with a nature narrative tracing the lives and habits of five of the most common species of goose in the UK.
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  • Wintering ISBN: 9781783965052 Paperback Oct 2020 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 5 days
  • Wintering ISBN: 9781783964543 Hardback Sep 2019 In stock
Selected version: £9.99
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About this book

In the autumn of 2018 Stephen Rutt and his partner moved to a house near the Solway Firth in Dumfries. As they settled into their new home thousands of pink-footed geese were arriving on the Firth from the Arctic Circle to make it their winter home. The arrival of huge flocks of geese in the UK is one of the most evocative and powerful harbingers of winter; a vast natural phenomenon to capture the imagination.

And so begins an extraordinary odyssey. From his new home in the north to further afield in wide open spaces of the south, Stephen traces the lives and habits of five of the most common species of goose in the UK. With an expert eye and clear, elegant prose he paints precise portraits of these large, startling, garrulous and cooperative birds.

But this is also a compact and beautifully written study of the place the goose has in our culture, our history and, occasionally, on our festive table. A vivid tour of the inbetween landscapes they inhabit and a celebration of the short days, varied weathers and long nights of the season during which we share our home with these birds.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • The poetry of geese
    By Piri 1 Mar 2020 Written for Hardback
    You could only write a book like this starting from a deep and wide knowledge of birds, a mental reference grid which I'm guessing is so ingrained and instinctive that even someone with Rutt's habitually observing and self-observing nature might not be able to tell you the minute judgments, moment to moment, that make up the act of identification - of a bird, of a species, of an emotion. (I once was walking in Spain with a naturalist friend who exclaimed, pointing at the other side of a kilometre-deep gorge several horizontal kilometres away, “Look at those marvellous walnut trees!”. “How do you know they’re walnuts?” I said, peering. “They just are,” he said.)

    And then on top of that, Rutt’s prose, so unadorned and clear, with those deep flashes of condensed imagery. In The Seafarers it was the gannets that got me, with their folded origami wings; in Wintering I was stopped dead by “The chiaroscuro after the storm”. The light on the Dumfries hillsides after the weather had blown over. Wow. Rutt’s writing is full of light, of winter gleams on marshes, of operatic dawns, of wide Essex skies and crystalline Dumfries mornings; the counterpoints of dullness and fog and interiors. His best life is outdoors; you can imagine him out in the weather, under the wind. Because the endearing thing about these books is how he draws himself in the picture, so that you can see him, possibly standing to one side with his shoulders a little hunched, separate like one of his beloved razorbills.

    Wintering has a narrower focus than Seafarers. You can see Rutt refining, theorising; striving to explain his visceral need to classify, to categorise, to make ever smaller and more exact distinctions. One side-effect of this is that there are more goose descriptions than us civilians can really take in. I think he may not know that many people don’t have an internal bird-book template which you can fill in with data and immediately internalise: shape in flight, tick; juvenile colouring, tick. Someone like me, who owns binoculars and can just about identify the easier garden birds, starts to flounder marshily. So that’s the goose which is all browny-grey with black wingtips and, um. No, that was the other one. Hmm.

    The amount of goose-detail would be forbidding if it weren’t for the appealing backdrop of Dumfries homelife, of Rutt’s humility and honesty. “I am no good in emergencies,” he tells us. Or, “Marshlands are the land of my heart.” We want to know more about his partner Miranda and the cat Morag: partly out of affectionate nosiness and partly as a respite from the high airless peaks of goose identification where mere mortals cannot survive for long.

    When a friend asks him what the point is of his goose quest, he’s baffled that anyone would ask the question. He tells us the answer, though: “A way of understanding the world around me. A way of understanding me.”
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Stephen Rutt is a birder, freelance nature writer and book reviewer whose work has appeared in Earthlines Magazine, Zoomorphic, The Harrier, Surfbirds, BirdGuides and The East Anglian Daily Times. His first book, the award-winning The Seafarers, was born during the seven months he spent at the bird observatory on North Ronaldsay in the Orkneys. He lives in Dumfries.

Nature Writing
By: Stephen Rutt(Author)
199 pages, no illustrations
Following hot on the heels of his award-winning book The Seafarers, Stephen Rutt returns with a nature narrative tracing the lives and habits of five of the most common species of goose in the UK.
Media reviews

"Stephen Rutt urges us to look again at these large, garrulous birds [...] A poignant testament to how we can find peace in the rhythms of the natural world [...] With the arrival of geese comes winter and with their departure we receive a symbolic promise that summer will come again."
The Times, Nature Books of the Year 2019

"A wistful, lovingly essayed volume. Illuminating history and descriptive nature writing make Wintering an understated gem for the festive season."
–, Gifts for Nature Lovers

"Rutt's dreamy prose is as cool and elegant as the season he charts. His love for them shines throughout a seamless blend of field observations and cultural history, framed by his continuing journey towards discovering solace and sense in nature"
– Jon Dunn, BBC Wildlife

"There are undoubtedly health benefits of spending time with wild creatures and I am uplifted by this book and peer upwards searching for a first view of a skein of geese flying overhead to their wintering grounds not far from me. I will never look at geese the same again. Strangely, I can't wait for winter."
Caught by the River

"From Dumfriesshire's spectacular skeins of pink-footed geese to the elusive Brandt, these extraordinary visitors are explored in this beautifully presented book"
Belfast Telegraph

"[...] Stephen is a skilled writer and his journey of discovery of wild geese is beautifully written. [...]"
– Roger Riddington, British Birds 113, April 2020

"This is not a long book, but its conciseness is its strength. By the end, you have spent time with each of our native wintering geese species, but a short enough period to be left with the essence of each. [...]"
– Teresa Frost, BTO book reviews

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