Ready for an adventure? Wellness Champion Brooke Morse and her husband, Brian, always are. They hike, bike, canoe, snowshoe and camp. But their real pursuit is somewhat surprising. They do all of this to look for birds.
“Basically everywhere we go and everything we do is about finding birds,” says Morse, an assistant archives and records management officer with Ontario County. “It’s a lifestyle.”
Morse knows that a lifestyle centered around birding sounds a little odd. But it’s a diverse hobby that provides an energizing, holistic approach to wellness.
Braving the Outdoors
As avid birders, Morse and her husband do more than fill a feeder in the backyard. They appreciate this relaxed approach, but they prefer to take their passion further.
“Birding is a passion that motivates us to get outside and do things we normally wouldn’t do,” Morse says. “We’ll brave anything. The hard work makes it a challenge and an accomplishment.”
Like that time they hiked a mountain in Alaska to catch a glimpse of willow ptarmigans, a bird in the grouse family. It was the same trip on which the two got married. Not only did they have an exciting time in Alaska, they were also rewarded with stunning scenery, and Morse got to see those willow ptarmigans. For her, it was a “life bird,” how birders describe the first time seeing a specific bird species.
Another time, Morse ventured out on a boat trip that took her 30 miles off the North Carolina coast. “It was a psychological challenge being out that far away from land in the heat with the nagging fear and anxiety of getting sick,” she says. The discomfort paid off, as Morse saw 10 life birds and several species of flying fish.
It Flies in the Family
A love of birding flies throughout the Morse household. Phoebe, the Morses’ 2-year-old daughter, can already identify five different species. This summer they are taking Phoebe to the Adirondack Mountains where they’ll stay in a cabin and enjoy some family-friendly bird watching.
Because of their love for birds, habitats and ecology, the Morses are extremely environmentally focused, and they do what they can to be good to the Earth. From the type of coffee they drink (organic and shade-tolerant) to the plants they put in their backyard, being birders influences the decisions they make in all aspects of their lives. They also don’t use pesticides, and they make sure to eat and use organic food and products.
Birding has also brought the Morses into a fun social circle. There are clubs to join and field trips to take. For 2016, they plan to attend the November Rio Grand Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, Texas, to meet up with out-of-state friends.
Each year, the Morses also participate in the Audubon Society’s and Rochester Birding Association’s annual Christmas Bird Count and the Buffalo Ornithological Society’s seasonal bird counts.
During a bird count, volunteers spread out over a designated territory to tally every bird they see and hear from sunrise to sunset. Bird counts require a lot of driving and hiking. Often local residents open up their backyards and feeders to the tally group, making the bird count even more thorough.
From Birder to Champion
Morse says love of birding and the outdoors is what ultimately led her to become a Wellness Champion.
Being a Wellness Champion for Ontario County gives Morse a platform to share her enthusiasm for an outdoorsy, active lifestyle.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning about making healthier choices and being educated,” she says. “I’m interested in so many different types of wellness activities, I knew I’d be a good representative.”