The Second Fastest Growing Hobby is... Birding?

We're down to the final week of summer. For birds, the fall migration has begun and that means it's peak season for birdwatching.

This is no casual activity, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann , in fact it's one of the most popular competitions in America.

For every backyard birder out there, the sound of birds is music to the ears.

(Scroll down to watch the video)

Greg Mason's one of 48 million American birders - amateur Audubons. They know a scarlet tanagerfrom a rose-breasted grosbeak.

Or in this case, a "little green heron," as Mason points out. He gets jazzed up about birdwatching. "You start doing this, and you go to kookytown."

The annual Great Texas Birding Classicis a spirited competition for more than 200 birders. Teams keep score on the honor system. Spot the greatest variety of birds, you win.

Competitors can identify different species by sight or by sounds. It's called "ear birding." If you're in it to win it, if you "bird" to win, the birder to beat is Bill Baker.

Baker is the five-time defending champion of the Great Texas Birding Classic. His three-man team will cover 2,000 miles in five days.

"It's a quick pace," Baker said. "We don't sit in one spot very long."

Baker scouts out the entire course before the competition begins. "Every team is going to find the bird you would expect to find," he said. "So you have to go beyond what's expected in order to win."

Mention Baker's name and many birders like Susan Knock lose their bravado.

"You're going to have to beat him," Strassmann said.

"I am," Knock replied.

"Is it possible?"

"Yes,"

"This year?"

"No."

Knock was right. Baker won again, spotting 308 different species. Proving once again that with both birds and birders, there is a pecking order.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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