Wintering – A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt

I’ve read ‘Wintering’ previously but I have come back to it this week. Taking Jane to work in the mornings there have been Greylags and several hundred Pinkfeet in the roadside fields on different days. On Tuesday we were on the Solway and I saw thousands of Barnacle Geese stretched in a ribbon across Rockcliffe Marsh. I’ve also had encounters with all the other species covered (Bean, Brent and Whitefront) over this winter so it seemed a good time to dip into it again.

I like Stephen Rutt’s style of nature writing. It blends the lyrical and the factual really well. It’s also good from a personal perspective to read good nature writing from a birder. When you know a lot about a subject it can be hard work reading a generalist trying to appear like an authority, but on the other hand a lot of writing by birders can be unrewarding. Describing both the birds and birding Stephen strikes a nice balance.

Looking at some reviews on Goodreads of Wintering it’s generally well received, but some people complained there was too much Stephen Rutt and not enough geese in it. I didn’t feel like that at all, I’ve bought into the view that the best nature writing works in the personal and the human and the understated way in which it is done in the book works for me.

I’ve only revisited the introduction and the first two chapters so far this time round, which were the ones I particularly wanted to reacquaint myself with as they are on Pinkfeet and Barnacle Geese. I think they are both excellent. My recollection from the first time round is that the chapter on Greylag Geese goes into a bit too much detail on domesticated geese and is a little out of kilter with the rest of the work.

Overall I recommend Wintering, and now is a good time to take it on board before the Wheatears are back and spring is in the air. As ever if anyone wants to borrow my copy I am happy to sort this.

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