Birding Without Borders Guest Blog

Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker takes the reader on a trip to 41 countries across all seven continents in Noah’s search to break the Guinness World Record for sighting half the world’s known bird species in a year. Below Noah explains more about this once-in-a-lifetime expedition:


Birding Without Borders

By Noah Strycker


On January 1, 2015, I set out to see the world, one bird at a time.


My goal for this ultimate adventure was to observe 5,000 species of birds on Planet Earth in one calendar year. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but one thing was for sure: I wouldn’t see anything if I didn’t go out and take a look.


Between January and December, I traveled through 41 countries and exceeded my Big Year goal by seeing 6,042 bird species—about 60 percent of all the species on Earth—and set a single-year birding world record.


Anything could have happened, and a lot did. I was scourged by blood-sucking leeches, suffered fevers, skirted war zones, and had the time of my life. I went birding every single day and logged only three days on which I failed to find at least one new species. On average, I reported 16.5 new birds each day. For the entire year, without a rest, I lived out of a small backpack, slept on couches, and birded like mad in some very far-flung places. I couldn’t have done it without the enthusiastic help of many local birders all over the world or the support of many more who followed from afar.


Among my Top 10 moments: thousands of nesting Adélie Penguins on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, an iconic Harpy Eagle in Brazil, a young celebrity Siberian Crane that had strayed to Taiwan, clownish-looking Black-and-yellow Broadbills bathing in rainwater in Borneo, and a long-lost Golden Masked-Owl in New Guinea.


When I finished at the end of the year, I could have told you off the top of my head the names of all 6,042 species. I had them memorized. Now, a couple years later, to be honest, some of the more obscure ones have started to evaporate. It’s kind of hard to keep your camaropteras, oleaginous hemispinguses, and zitting cisticolas straight. But I still remember every single one of the people I met during my travels that year—and there were hundreds by the end—every one of the new friendships, connections, and characters. These are the memories that stick with you, especially when you share such an intense interest like birding.


The thing about birds is that they are universal. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, birds are all around you. So anybody can become fascinated by them. That means we all share the birds of this planet, and by extension the planet that they inhabit. It’s worth saying, especially in today’s general climate, that birds help remind us how to be global citizens, and how connected we really are.


My Big Year is just one example of how we accomplish things by working together across all kinds of borders.

Find Birding Without Borders here:



Turmeric by Penelope Ody


Today we’re very pleased to publish Turmeric: Fact or Fiction? by Penelope Ody. In Turmeric Penelope Ody, the UK’s leading herbalist, provides the most up-to-date guide to turmeric’s therapeutic properties and its role in alleviating twenty-first century ailments.

Turmeric has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for centuries but in recent years it has hit the headlines and shelves of the health food shops hailed as a “miracle cure” for a range of illnesses from arthritis to auto-immune disease. Penelope Ody looks at the scientific evidence behind such claims and asks “just how valid are the numerous claims made for the herb?”

We asked Penelope to talk a bit about one particularly interesting aspect of the book. Here is what she told us.


Whole herb or chemical extract?


The recent publicity over the uses of medicinal marijuana and the efficacy of its extracted “THC” and “CBD” chemicals may have left many confused as to what is and is not a legal extract of Cannabis sativa – classified in Britain as class B recreational drug.

For centuries the whole herb was quite legally used as a medicinal herb: Pliny writing around AD79, recommended it for stiffness in the joints and gout, while in Victorian times it was regarded as a wonder drug with Dr William O’Shaughnessy, a returning East India Company physician, devoting 25 pages to “Indian hemp” in his “Pharmacopoeia” of Bengali remedies.

While there are currently no legal restrictions on turmeric similar confusion abounds as to whether it is the whole herb – also used for centuries for a range of ailments – or a single group of its constituents (the curcuminoids) that are responsible for its medicinal properties.

Sadly there is very little research into “whole” herbs – why should any company invest money in expensive clinical trials involving a herb which, once its efficacy was proven, anyone could easily grow in their own gardens or gather from the hedgerow. Instead producers prefer to focus on single chemical constituents that can be patented and sold for profit.

Equally there is very little understanding of how a plant’s cocktail of chemical constituents work synergistically together to produce its therapeutic effects. Typical is meadowsweet, which under its old botanical classification of Spiraea ulmarea gave its name to Aspirin back in the 1890s, since the drug can be produced from salicylic aldehyde contained in this pretty hedgerow plant. While meadowsweet can also be used for many of the ailments treated by Aspirin, it is also an effective remedy for gastritis – a common side effect of taking Aspirin.

Whole herbs taken in excess can certainly have unwanted side-effects but compared with extracts of their individual constituents these are generally rather less significant. However, with most current research focusing on single chemical extracts many traditional uses for medicinal herbs are dismissed as scientifically unproven quackery – while those extracts that do prove efficacious, as with the THC/CBD controversy, are liable to excessive regulation limiting their wider use.


Turmeric by Penelope Ody is available here:


Birding Without Borders

We are very excited for the publication of our second book with Noah Strycker, Birding Without Borders. Birding Without Borders follows an exciting year for Noah, as he set himself the goal of seeing half the world’s birds in one year. He managed to spot 6,042 remarkable species and we would like to show you some of those which we found the most interesting with Noah’s insightful commentary.


The Sword-Billed Hummingbird

‘The Sword-bill has such a long bill – adapted for probing certain tubular, hanging flowers – that it must preen itself with its feet and usually holds its head upright to rest, like someone who is balancing a javelin on the tip of their nose. No other bird has a bill exceeding its own body length.’


Golden-Masked Owl

‘One of the planet’s least-known bird species – it had not been seen alive in about thirty years. The owl looks similar to a Barn Owl – flattened face, pale plumage, no “ear” tufts – with black speckles covering its golden yellow body. Nobody knows where it nests, what it eats, what it sounds like, its population status, or even what habitat it prefers.’


Crowned Woodnymph

‘We sat for a minute while nothing stirred. Then, like a tiny mirage, a Crowned Woodnymph appeared over one of the pools, hovering inches above the water. It was violet-blue and green, iridescent on its entire three inch body.’


Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker can be ordered here:

Jess Thom – Me, My Mouth and I

We are very excited for the release this Saturday on BBC2 at 22:45, Me, My Mouth and I – a new film by Jess Thom exploring neurodiversity in the arts through the works of Samuel Beckett. Artist, activist and performer Jess Thom – has Tourette’s syndrome and is about to take on the biggest creative challenge of her life. In this film Jess takes us on a funny and unpredictable journey of discovery into one of Samuel Beckett’s most complex plays Not I and asks us to reconsider issues of representation and social exclusion as she prepares to perform the role of ‘Mouth’ in front of a live theatre audience.

Jess meets with fellow disabled artists such as activist, comedian and Silent Witness disabled actor Liz Carr, Beckett expert Derval Tubridy as well other people with lived experience of Tourette’s as she uncovers the central themes originally intended by Beckett for this piece. And as a lateral thinker we see her working with UK MC and rapper Rodney P, to learn from his oratory skills as she works to deliver an unforgettable performance.

Jess challenges the perception that only certain works can be performed by and made accessible to disabled audiences and questions the cultural curation that lies behind this assumption. Navigating her way through the practical and attitudinal barriers, she asks us to consider who is allowed to perform what, and who gets the final say.


About the performance, Jess says: “I’ve long been fascinated by the intensity of Not I. I have a strong affinity with Mouth,and I’m interested in how a neuro-diverse performance would work in practice. We’re claiming Mouth as a disabled voice and will explore the experience from that perspective.”

“By presenting Mouth in a way that works for my unpredictable body and speech, I aim to deproblematize previous interpretations, and show that Mouth is only as isolated as her community makes her.”

If you don’t know Jess already Jess Thom, 37, is a performer and the co-founder of Touretteshero, an organisation that seeks to raise awareness about Tourette syndrome and campaigns for a more inclusive society. Born in London, Thom was formally diagnosed with the condition in her early 20s and exhibits both vocal and motor tics (her frequent involuntary use of the word “biscuit” provided the title for her first standup show, Backstage in Biscuit Land). Jess published Welcome to Biscuit Land, a detailed and engaging guide to a year in her life covering the whole spectrum of her experiences, the challenges and the triumphs.


Welcome to Biscuit Land is available here:

More information about Me, My Mouth and I here:

Welcome to Biscuit Land cover

Weed and Medical Marijuana

The debate about the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal use has enlivened this week with the controversial news of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell having cannabis oil, which he was prescribed to help alleviate his severe epilepsy, confiscated from him after a six-month supply. After being granted an emergency license for the oil, many politicians have been discussing whether the law should be changed. This morning William Hague has ‘urged Theresa May to legalise cannabis, saying the UK’s drug policy is “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date” and that the “battle is effectively over”. (See:

Weed by David Schmader is a comprehensive guide to marijuana and, as such, makes excellent points about medical marijuana and its palliative use for those with epilepsy:

‘Marijuana has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Typically, weed has been used not as an active treatment for disease, but for its palliative effects, which reliably diminish symptoms and side effects of AIDS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis, and have recently shown promise in treating psychological disorders like PTSD.


‘Forever working against the recognition of marijuana as medicine is its ability to get users pleasantly high, which, in the minds of reactionary nimrods, makes all support for medical marijuana tainted by drug-seeking motives. This is one of a million reasons to cherish cannabidiol, popularly abbreviated to CBD. Unlike the popular THC, CBD has zero psychoactive effects, giving users access to weed’s medical benefits without requiring them to get stoned. Marijuana breeders are now creating strains with high levels of CBD and almost no THC, opening medical marijuana treatment possibilities for many patients who don’t want to get high – for example, children with seizure disorders.


‘For sufferers of neurological disorders – ALS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease – marijuana can reduce problematic inflammation, with cannabinoids correcting imbalances in the endocannabinoid system that coincide with neurological degeneration. Specifically, weed has been cited as a treatment for the pain and spasticity of ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, for the muscle spasms and tremors of multiple sclerosis, and for seizures related to epilepsy.’

Find out more from Weed by David Schmader here:


The Carer’s Bible by Amanda Waring

Today we’re very proud to publish The Carer’s Bible by Amanda Waring. The Carer’s Bible is an invaluable, inspiring guide to how to give your loved one the best possible care while addressing the anxieties that all carers suffer. As part of Carer’s Week, The Carer’s Bible is an excellent guide for those wishing to learn more about this deeply important subject.

The Carer’s Bible includes practical tips, checklists for best practice, descriptions of their experience from a wide range of carers that addresses solutions to common problems and expert advice on how to deliver compassionate and dignified care to older people. It is easy to read and provides anecdotal experience from carers and tips from the experts.

The Carer’s Bible covers topics such as:









Uniquely, Amanda Waring also provides support and guidance for the carer, how to maintain energy and commitment, how to recognise the signs of compassion fatigue and where carers can get help if they need it. The Carer’s Bible is essential reading for anyone who cares for an elderly person, whether as a professional or as a loved one, in its promotion of the role dignity and respect should play.

Amanda Waring is a filmmaker, her campaigning film What Do You See has been shown across the world, and a leader of training workshops on dignified care of the elderly. Amanda is a presenter for Aged Care TV, an advisor on the government’s Dignity board and the author of The Heart of Care.

Find The Carer’s Bible here:



Weed by David Schmader

‘When Canopy Growth opened its first cannabis factory in an old chocolate plant near Ottawa four years ago, it did so predicting a bright future. Canada had already legalized medical marijuana, and Canopy predicted full legalization for recreational use to be next.

What the company hadn’t predicted, however, was the sudden flood of foreign visitors. Politicians and police authorities from Jamaica, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece and Australia have all come knocking, as well as doctors from New Zealand, Brazil and Chile, along with groups of corporate investors and bankers – so many that Canopy now splits the groups into smaller units according to their birthdays.

“We knew we’d have to give a lot of tours, so we just cut a window into the wall,” said the company spokesman, Jordan Sinclair. “We put windows in all of the doors.”

Canada will be thrust even more directly under the international microscope on Thursday, when a vote in the Senate is expected to ratify Bill C-45, effectively making Canada the first G20 nation to legalize recreational marijuana.’

So begins Selena Ross’ article ‘All eyes on Canada as first G7 nation prepares to make marijuana legal’  

Weed: A User’s Guide is the key text to understanding the ins and outs of marijuana. This definitive, hands-on, guide will educate and entertain the novice and experienced user alike. Complete with history, ways to enjoy, recipes, safety and legality tips, and medical-use information, this witty guide is perfect for the new world of decriminalised recreational marijuana.

Find Weed by David Schmader here: