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Birding on Borrowed Time [Paperback]

Phoebe Snetsinger , H. Douglas Pratt

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story by a great woman 24 Jun 2003
By WPM - Published on Amazon.com
This autobiography by the world's foremost birdwatcher is an inspiring story for everyone. Phoebe Snetsinger, at the age of 34, and after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma and given 6 months to live, dedicated herself to birding. For Phoebe this meant not only finding the birds, but learning everything she could about them, and then recording her experiences in great detail. In spite of recurrent episodes of her cancer, a gang rape in New Guinea, and many other misadventures, she succeeded in seeing over 8000 species of birds, a world record that may never be surpassed. She visited almost every area of the world several times, and tells her story with wit and charm. The book has many beautiful illustrations.
For anyone interested in birds this is a must read; others will enjoy reading the well written adventures of an intrepid lady.
Tragically, Phoebe was killed in a bus accident in Madagascar about 2 years ago, shortly after seeing one of her most wanted birds, a red-shouldered vanga.
66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Title is NOT OUT OF PRINT 16 July 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This title is NOT out of print. You can purchase new, first edition copies through the American Birding Association's ABA Sales for $17.95 plus shipping. Call 800-634-7736 to order your copy today!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birding the World to the Max 1 Sep 2009
By Brian Allen - Published on Amazon.com
I had read this book a couple of years ago and just finished the other Phoebe Snetsinger book "Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by
Olivia Gentile.

In this, Snetsinger's autobiography, she is focused more on her birding, her world travels to see the 8,400+ species she found, and some of the reasons and motivations for her accomplishments. Gentile's book details more of Snetsinger's background, family life, and suppositions for her behavior.

I personally found this book the more interesting of the two as I am more interested in world travel and birding. I wanted to know what it would be like if you had the time and money (like Snetsinger)to go wherever you wanted what that life could be like. I appreciated the detail of the travels to Peru, India, Kenya, Australia, Papau New Guinea, rather than the family information presented in Gentile's biography, although other readers that are not interested in birding may find that book more readable.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Binoculars In Hand 9 Jun 2011
By Dr. DH Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Phoebe Snetsinger was the first person to see 8000 bird species or, in her preferred terms, 84% of known bird species. 'Birding On Borrowed Time' is her birding autobiography. Her title alludes to her learning she had cancer with perhaps only months to live. She decided to see as many bird species as possible before she died. She wrote, "If it's my last trip, so be it - but I'm going to make it a good one and go down binoculars in hand." She birded on borrowed time for 18 years.

While she recounts some of her personal life and some of her birding exploits, her memoir is surprisingly cursory in both. If a reader wanted a fuller account of her personal trials and tribulations, the reader would be better off reading Olivia Gentile's 'Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds'. On her birding, Snetsinger captures the fun of identifying species, as well as the challenge and hard work that makes a difficult identification so rewarding and satisfying. She describes the ambivalent feelings of birders with the triumph at having finally seen and identified a species, yet the sadness that it "now no more there to look for". Nevertheless, with exceptions such as her account of breaking her wrist while in the Philippines and continuing to bird for weeks, much of her account is a list of where and when she saw which birds.

It is rewarding to know where she birded and to dream of going to some of those places with the hope of seeing even a fraction of what she saw. For this reason and because she did "go down binoculars in hand", it is worth reading 'Birding On Borrowed Time'.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vicarious Trip with Phoebe Snetsinger 6 Jun 2011
By W. H. Buntin Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Peggy Groves, a friend of mine, was the roommate of Phoebe in Swarthmore. When she found out about my love of birding, she invited Phoebe down to Albany, GA, and my wife Frances and I went to a meal at the Groves' house. I frankly do not remember anything about the meal, but Phoebe was quite charismatic as we reviewed her start in birding, and subsequent travels. Every time she returned to St. Louis, she would call me, or send me a review letter. She only used the bird guides (humans) to get her to the right place, she already knew the various plumages, similar birds, and all of their calls, if available. She believed that hearing a bird for ID was no substitute for seeing the bird. And I do, too. A rare hero that I got to meet!
Bill Buntin
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