birding-aus RIP, Phoebe Snetsinger

Subject: birding-aus RIP, Phoebe Snetsinger
From: andrew stafford <>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 22:29:09 -0800 (PST)
Hi folks.

I am dismayed to learn so abruptly of Phoebe
Snetsinger's death in Madagascar, posted on birdline
by Susan Myers. Phoebe was in the country only a
matter of weeks ago and I was fortunate to meet her
for the first time when she chartered the Sandra K for
a day at Wollongong in the hope of seeing the
much-reported (and highly controversial) Amsterdam

Phoebe was a hoot. She had enormous energy and a
terrific sense of humour. Actually, she was completely
mad. It's to her credit that she recognised fully that
her life had become a travelling bird circus. There is
an inherent absurdity in obsessive twitching and she
was fully cognisant of that fact. But it should never
stop anyone enjoying themselves, and it certainly
didn't stop Phoebe. More likely it saved her life.

She was fortunate, of course, to be independently
wealthy enough to pursue her obsession to the ends of
the earth until her death, but money ain't everything:
she was dead keen, and very sharp in the field. She
might have had one of the biggest life lists ever, but
I'm pretty sure she was more interested in the birds
themselves. It wasn't just a mathematical exercise to

She was also keen to keep learning. It was a pleasure
for me personally to point out to someone with so much
more birding (and life) experience why a Black-bellied
Storm-Petrel wasn't a White-bellied. Luckily we had a
co-operative bird, so although she didn't see an
Amsterdam Albatross she was never bored. No hint of
seasickness either! She was a trooper.

Phoebe was in her 70s. I didn't see any signs of
someone in physical decline, much less slowing down.

I stress, I only met her once. But she left her mark.
Phoebe seemed to me to embody a great deal of what is
great about being a birder.

If there's a birder's heaven, I hope I meet up with
her again there one day.

Andrew S

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