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Birding on Borrowed Time First Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1878788412
ISBN-10: 1878788418
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Phoebe Snetsigner's quest to see as many birds as possible only began at the age of 34, when she first laid eyes on a resplendent Blackburnian Warbler. After her belated awakening to the avian marvels around her, Phoebe began traveling across the globe, to all seven continents, observing and learning as much as she could about the world's thousands of bird species. The intensity and urgency of her quest were quickened when a cancer diagnosis led doctors to give her one year to live. Instead of succumbing to despair, Phoebe pursued her passion and strove to live what remained of her life to its fullest. Miraculously, she defied her death sentence, living on to see more of the world and more new birds for 17 additional years. Along the way, she faced other hazards: a brutal assault and rape in New Guinea, a shipwreck, earthquakes, and political upheaval, along with recurrences of malignant melanoma. But in the end she triumphed over adversity and fulfilled her lifelong dream by becoming the first person to see more than 8,000 of the world's birds - a remarkable achievement that required passion, knowledge, skill, dedication, and persistence.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: American Birding Association, Inc.; First edition (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878788418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878788412
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
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!
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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Phoebe Snetsinger was in the next door cabana during my 1991 birding trip to Cuba. Her reputation preceded her - how she chose to go birding when told she had three months to live due to a melanoma. She was the first person to see over 8,000 bird species in the wild, and she saw 10 of those during our first morning in Cuba. The single paragraph she devoted to that trip in her autobiography only mentiobned those birds she missed: like Zapata Rail and Stygian Owl. Two years later I got the owl while leading another trip to Playa Larga, probably the only bird in the world that I had and she didn't when she died in an auto crash in Madagascar in 1999. Phoebe fundamentally changed how we do international birding, keeping copious notes on races which might someday be split, and refusing to count species that she heard and did not see. . She was all business, but possessed a puckish sense of humor, like the time she erected her umbrella during a shower, unbuttoned the top button and stuck it in her bra, leaving both hands free on the binoculars. "It's the only advantage a woman has in the field - the only one!" she said with a wink, and went right bacik to studying a Cuban Green Woodpecker. Reading her autobiography gave me an opportunity to recall this and other incidents. Her writing is no-nonsense. Anyone who aspires to be an international birder should read this book, and would do well to emulate her example..
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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'.
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