Keeping with my wildlife and animal theme of reading lately, I just finished Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile (Bloomsbury, 2009). This is a fantastic book that examines the life of Phoebe Snetsinger, a competitive top-listing birder who tragically passed away in 1999 at the age of 68, after enduring cancer years before.

Olivia gives a thorough picture of Phoebe’s life in birding. I actually found myself living-through-reading the more traumatic and thrilling moments of Phoebe’s experiences, thanks to Olivia’s keen details. Olivia’s journalistic style also presents the facts as she discovered and learned them, but Olivia also gives her readers a sense of the emotions and psychology behind the decisions of Phoebe and in her world birding trips. Phoebe had to enjoy the thrill from the travel she did to remote places and must have had a great sense of accomplishment with just the physical efforts she went through to see fantastic birds in the rough and rugged areas she went.

A couple of notes:

First, you have to visit Olivia Gentile’s website for a visual treat!

Second, you need to at least look through this book for its beautiful illustrations throughout, by Rebecca Layton.

Third, Phoebe Snetsinger wrote her autobiography, Birding on Borrowed Time, published by the American Birding Association in 2003.

Fourth, I found a new book I will be studying, Brushed by Feathers: A Year of Birdwatching in the West by Frances L. Wood (Fulcrum Publishing, 2004), given that I spend so much time in the west, in the outdoors, and have been informally birding for several years now.

Fifth, I don’t have my own life list yet, but will be working on that.

Sixth, this book made me feel okay about OCD tendencies and I plan to keep several types of life lists (birds as mentioned above, hikes & trails, peaks, books, maybe others).

Seventh, because I hear birds better than I see them, I need to learn bird calls. and plan to do so thanks to the All About Birds site from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Eighth, birds are fascinating and I want to know more. I heard a bird today that I have never heard before. It’s a major thrill to finally learn to know what you’re hearing and/or seeing.  Birding is a bit like genealogy – you have a generally point of reference and then you sometimes have to work backwards or forwards to find the accurate answer. It’s great for researchers who delight in this form of private investigation.

Ninth, reading Life List has been beneficial to read to better understand more about the past, present and future generations, and even comparing Phoebe’s life path to her children’s and their opportunities. This made me think also about the opportunities in education that I’ve had compared to what my grandparents had. Phoebe was a brilliant woman whose mind was somewhat suppressed and it was a like a dam bursting forth when she had the opportunity to seize birding and her passion for the rest of her life. She was a passionate woman and just needed to find the right passion.

Tenth, seize the moment, learn something new everyday, and live within balance of your pursuits and passions.

Happy Reading, Birding, and Nature Watching!

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