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Wintering: A Season with Geese (cover)

Publisher: Elliott and Thompson, London

Publication Year: 2019

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 197

ISBN Number: 9781783964543

Price: £ 12.99

Wintering: a Season with Geese

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.

One chapter is dedicated to each of our wintering species (or two, in the case of the most recent taxonomic wrangling of the Bean Geese). Each chapter deftly combines facts with personal anecdote. I learned something new about geese in every one.

The author can see representatives of all the species from his home on the northern side of the Solway or his parents' home in East Anglia. These are the places I have myself lived for the past decade. The struggle for light and energy on dreich Scottish November days being lifted by skeins of Pink Feet and the cacophony of Barnacles certainly brought back memories, as did reference to the welcoming folk of Dumfriesshire. The goose races or populations may be different in the north and south, but only the Bean Geese strictly require travel to East Anglia – the Dee Marshes haunt being long since abandoned. The Greylag is given the shortest shrift in the book – our over-familiar domesticated species, consumed at Christmas, the author calls it “a suburban, semi-tame bird, devoid of the wild charm of other species… a thickset bird, a goose that lacks elegance”. He did not travel to see the Icelandic migratory population further north.

It made me wonder, as it gets harder to separate the Greylag populations for trends and population estimates, how much of our admiration of geese is because of the romance of their migrations, and their astounding aggregations when they spend the winter with us? Is a stay-at-home goose worth so much less than a travelling goose? The author ends, "And thanks to the geese themselves, for keeping winter bearable since the Pleistocene". Personally I’d extend my thanks to ducks as well, but I know exactly what he means. If they also bring you joy, this is a book to remind you why, and to go out and enjoy the winter season with geese.

Book reviewed by Teresa Frost

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