It would never have occurred to me to think about this, but I am fine with the surprise:
Birding for Solidarity: The Phoebes
Eight women decided they had enough of the sport’s competitiveness, so they created a community to lift their sisters up.
If you’re in the presence of a male Eastern Phoebe, he’ll let you know. The small sooty-brown flycatcher cues his own arrival with a raspy, two-toned fee-bee that rings out from the woodlands. The female phoebe, meanwhile, keeps a low profile among the branches. Her nest, which she builds on her own, is an engineering marvel: a woven collage of mud, moss, grass, and fur.
But her subtle strength and fierce independence tend to go unappreciated—a feeling the Phoebes, a women’s birding group in South Florida, know all too well and are trying to amend, one mindful excursion at a time.
The founders of the Phoebes first met on a muggy October morning in 2017 during a fall-migration walk led by record-breaking birder Noah Strycker, the Tropical Audubon Society, and Leica Store Miami. The women hailed from a range of backgrounds—biology, education, culinary and visual arts—but they felt an instant connection through their shared love of nature and kindred perspectives. They spent much of the hike along the Biscayne Bay laughing, filling in the pauses between sightings with chatter and queries for Strycker, who responded deftly and supportively. By the end of the day, the women knew they’d experienced something different from the typical ID- and list-obsessed outing. They wanted to build on the collaborative spirit and decided to meet again.
Over dinner at wildlife photographer and writer Kirsten Hines’ house in Miami a few nights later, the ladies vented about their frustrations with “serious” birding: the competitiveness, the tendency to dismiss common species, the contempt toward newbies, the mansplaining. They decided to embrace their own style of birding—one that moved at its own pace, dwelled more on the animals and their environments, and above all, accepted any woman with an interest in Aves, no matter her skill or knowledge.
But what to call this sisterhood? The women settled on the Phoebes, in part because the drab songbird is often overshadowed by Florida’s tropical species. The name had feminist connotations as well: It paid homage to Phoebe Snetsinger, the driven, whip-smart birder who documented 8,300 avian species in her fifties and sixties, and Phoebe, a Titan from Greek mythology whose name signifies brightness.
“It was a powerful, feminine night,” says Leticia de Mello Bueno, one of the founding eight, who is now a communications manager at Audubon. “I felt queenly. There was the sense that something significant was happening through us.”
Read the whole story here.