Karl Overman: Birds and More


Jeff Greenhouse and Joe Kleiman were the dominant birders in the Detroit area in the 1970s and they typically birded together.  I started going to law school at Wayne State in 1970 and for the three years I was in law school I had no car.  I still saw lots of birds thanks to Joe and Jeff stopping by my apartment on Seward in Detroit to pick me up to go birding. 

When I graduated from law school I finally bought a car, a 1969 Valiant, from Joe Kleiman.  I think I paid $300 for it. Jeff at the time was not working.  Since I did not have a job either, Jeff and I planned a month long  birding trip to the Southwest in my Valiant. For money, I used the money I had planned that I had set aside for a bar review course. So much for getting your priorities straight.  I ended up being one of the relatively few who took the Michigan Bar exam that year without taking a bar review course. Yeh, I passed. Barely.

Jeff and I left on May 3, 1973 and returned to Michigan on June 2, 1973.   We birded  like we were possessed, as we were of course.  We left Jeff’s apartment in Birmingham, Michigan in the pre-dawn hours of May 3rd, and as soon as we crossed the Indiana line at Angola, we were out of the car in the dark trying to pick up Screech Owl for the trip list.  Our birding odyssey took us to Jonesboro, Illinois (dipped on Swainson’s Warbler); south Texas including the Hill Country by way of Mississippi (Mississippi?); Northeast Mexico for some tropical birding; Big Bend N.P., in west Texas; Southeast Arizona and finally the plains of northeastern Colorado.  What a great trip.

Jeff moved to San Francisco in 1980 where he birded intensely for at least a year before becoming one of the few serious birders I have known who basically walked away from birding.  He still was involved in natural history though as he was keenly interested in botany.  Once while I was on the phone with Jeff  shortly after he had moved to California,  I asked the theoretical question, “Where is the best place to live in California for a birder? “ Monterey? San Diego? Santa Barbara?  Jeff unhesitantly replied : “By a phone. “

The photo below is of Jeff trying to tape in a Botteri’s Sparrow at Laguna Atascosa, Texas during our epic birding trip in 1973.

Jeff Greenhouse