Wildlife heroes Dove Step for nature...

On the 18th April 2015 a team of seven friends will embark on their second journey for Turtle Doves.

Having covered the core UK breeding range of Turtle Dove through 300 miles of England in 2014, the team are now turning their attention to the Turtle Dove’s Afro-European migratory route.

This year sees the Dove Step team traverse France in its entirety covering over 700 miles in the process. Dove Step 2 includes a kayak expedition of 25 miles, the same distance as a channel crossing, a 540 mile cycle ride and a 150 mile walk drawing a self propelled line from Suffolk to the Spanish border.

Turtle Dove numbers have fallen dramatically since the 1970s with a 96% reduction in breeding birds. Once widespread across much of England and Wales, the species has been lost from many areas and is now primarily restricted to areas of East Anglia and southern England.

Reasons for the Turtle Dove's population crash are not fully understood. However, since the 1960s their diet has changed from the small seeds of wild plants to one dominated mainly by crop seeds which are scarce early in the breeding season and may provide a poorer quality diet for Turtle Doves.

It is the dramatic decline of 96% which drives the Dove Step team to keep enduring and to push further each year. This years journey sees the team pitted against the raw power of the sea and exposed to the elements for two days before cycling 90 miles every day for six days and walking 25 miles a day for a further six days. 700 miles in just 14 days – for Turtle Doves.

This year’s team is split across the three disciplines of our ‘triathlon’. Completing the full 3-stage kayak, cycle and walking legs are Stu Moore from Dereham and Jonny Rankin who lives in Bury St Edmunds.

Andrew Goodrick from Sheffield will lead the sea kayak leg under the watchful eye of Kurt Finch, pro kayaker and owner of Nomad Sea Kayaking, Suffolk based sea kayak tour leaders and coaches.

Ed Waterston, experience cyclist and owner of County Durham based marketing consultancy ‘Cadence Creative Works’, will lead the 540 mile cycling leg connecting Calais to Bordeaux.

For the final leg of this year’s journey Robert Yaxley owner of ‘Wild Frontier Ecology’ from Foulsham will don his boots and as with the first Dove Step journey lead the group 150 miles down to the Spanish border at Irun.

Mr Sven Wair from Colchester is the team support and after handling logistics back home for the first two stages will join us to drive a support vehicle for the walking leg.

A seven-strong team with members playing to their respective strengths and committed to supporting Operation Turtle Dove.

The inaugural Dove Step journey raised over £3000 in support of Operation Turtle Dove in 2014, and significantly raised awareness. Operation Turtle Dove is a multi partner effort led by the RSPB and including Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England. Operation Turtle Dove seeks to redress the catastrophic decline of Turtle Dove in the UK.

The £3000 raised last year provided nine hectares of installed Turtle Dove habitat in the East of England. Habitat, which provides food for the doves when they return from their African wintering grounds, and again when they have young to feed later in the season.

Whilst the Dove Step campaign is self-funded, it is also supported by BlackBar Brewery who brew Dove Step beer, and Bridgedale Socks who provide equipment. Wild Frontier Ecology and Bird Watching Magazine are directly supporting our fundraising efforts with donations.

Follow the Dove Step team’s journey from the 18th April on the Dove Step 2 website and, if you are able, please support the fundraising via the JustGiving page.