Karl Overman: Birds and More


In the early part of 1966, my senior year in high school in the Flint area, I was down at the University of Michigan ‘s bird unit  in Ann Arbor when I mentioned to one of the grad students that I would be going to Dartmouth in the fall. He told me I had to get in contact with Bob Smart who lived in New Hampshire and was one of the best birders in the country.

When I got to Dartmouth that fall I followed through on this and made contact with Bab Smart and for the four years I was at Dartmouth, I hitch hiked to his apartment in New Hampton on many weekends so that we could go birding somewhere in New Hampshire. Bob was my birding mentor and it would be hard to come up with a better one.  His birding skills were legendary, he had birding contacts all over the country and he was a fun guy to be around.  Bob was an extravert in a birding world short on extroverts. He had many interests besides birds, one being opera though he couldn’t sing a note. He also loved to drink and that proved his undoing.  He had a famous pair of binoculars that actually were a flask for whisky.  He died in his early 50s. 

In the 1960s Bob, like a number of top birders around the U.S., was concerned about the direction of birding so he quickly signed on to Jim Tucker’s idea of the American Birding Association with Bob being one of the first officers of that new organization.  Through Bob, I became one of the first members of the ABA in 1967.

I loved to hear Bob talk of his experiences in birding outside the U.S.  He had taught school in Uganda for a year and birded extensively in that country.  His African experience brought him in contact with Stuart Keith who for a number of years had the largest list in the world.  In March of 1969 I was privileged to go on my first foreign birding trip with Smart and Stuart Keith to Panama.  I also made trips with Smart to Ecuador, Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Gone but not forgotten.


Bob  Smart