A singing male Turtle Dove. © Jonny Rankin

A singing male Turtle Dove. © Jonny Rankin

‘’Activism noun. The following of a policy of vigorous action in a cause.’ Seems to sum up Dove Step 2 quite nicely’. Darren Underwood, April 2015

Dove Step fellow and true gent Mr Darren Underwood made several supportive comments via Twitter during our endurance days on Dove Step 2. These comments and quotes were particularly well received when suffering on the walking leg.

Of Darren’s comments the above on Activism stuck with me. Dove Step is our reaction to the decline of Turtle Dove populations; our actions have to be vigorous as we are seeking to halt a vigorous decline. We know Dove Step alone will not cure all the issues affecting Turtle Doves, but the supporting of Operation Turtle Dove, is definitely the best way forward. Our funds, as kindly donated by you, support Operation Turtle Dove across its objectives. Last year we raised enough funds to install nine hectares of Turtle Dove habitat in the eastern region. This year, at the time of writing our 700 mile triathlon has raised £3 544.17 (£4 430.21 with Gift Aid) to support these objectives. Having liaised with Operation Turtle Dove, we will be announcing the activity that this year’s fundraising will go towards over the coming weeks.

The publication by the IUCN of The European Red List validates our efforts for Turtle Doves, previously considered to be of Least Concern. Turtle Doves are now deemed vulnerable and near threatened with extinction.

The reasons for the decline of European bird species, including Turtle Dove are identified as:

‘Biological resource use’, and ‘agriculture and aquaculture’ are Europe’s top threats to bird species, followed by ‘climate change and severe weather’, ‘pollution’, ‘invasive and other problematic species, genes and diseases’ and ‘natural system modifications’.

Turtle Doves are seemingly affected by all of the reasons for Europe wide declines:

‘… the proportion of threatened species in this assessment is comparable to that in the previous assessment a decade ago. Bird species continue to decline as a result of various threats, including illegal hunting, changing agricultural practices, invasive and alien species and habitat loss and degradation. It is evident that much more needs to be done to save threatened European bird species from extinction and to safeguard the bird populations of Europe.’

I am pleased that the Dove Step campaign and our most recent ‘700 mile triathlon’ stands as ‘activism’ to help address these issues.

Turtle Doves revised classification as ‘vulnerable and near threatened’ with extinction by the IUCN, poses a direct conflict with the EU management plan for Turtle Dove, which states:

The Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur is listed on Annex II/2 of the EU Birds Directive as a species for which hunting is permitted in the following Member States: Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Austria, and Portugal. The Turtle Dove is an important quarry species in these countries with 2-4 million birds shot annually.

I have a petition with the EU parliament, which I have tried for months to get live. It is not an easy process, the latest update as received today is:

Your petition will become available for support once it is adopted and found admissible by the Committee on Petitions. For any change in status you will be notified by e-mail.’

The submitted petition is entitled ‘Revise the EU Management Plan for the Turtle Dove’ and hopefully it will be adopted very soon allowing Dove Step supporters, who are EU residents, to sign in the near future. The revised Red List status is surely a precursor to updating the Management Plan and consequently the number of Turtle Dove allowed as quarry.

We are extremely positive in the Dove Step camp; we have now had time to reflect upon this year’s journey and will be sharing the experience via upcoming guest blogs, magazine features and talks. We will also be announcing the next Dove Step journey, Dove Step 3, within our Birdfair talk. If you are attending, do come and hear our plans at 09:30 in marquee 3 on the Saturday morning, 22nd August at Rutland Water.

Sir Robert Yaxley, veteran of both Dove Step journeys to date...

Sir Robert Yaxley, veteran of both Dove Step journeys to date…

Dove Step progress - so far...

Dove Step progress – so far…


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Dove Step talks

Following the successful completion of Dove Step 2 we will be giving the following talks in 2015. Please come and see us to hear more gory details of the Dove Step journeys and what drives us to endure for Turtle Doves:

  • August 22nd, 09:30 BirdfairLecture Marquee 3 – Sir Rob and Jonny give an overview of the Dove Step campaign.

  • October 28th, 20:30 Grant Arms Hotel, Gantown on Spey – after dinner talk by Jonny to the Bird Watching Wildlife Club (BWWC) about Turtle Doves, Operation Turtle Dove and why the Dove Step team propel themselves hundreds of miles to raise funds for the RSPB.

  • November 5th, 19:30 Holiday Inn, Ipswich – short talk by Jonny to the Suffolk Ornitholgical Group (SOG) updating members on Dove Step campaign progress.

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Dove Step – stat attack!


  • Over the first two Dove Step journeys we have covered 1032.72 miles.
  • This 1032.72 miles has been covered in a total of just 27 days.
  • An average ‘Dove Step day’ of 35.8 miles per day.
  • Over the 27 days we have spent 124 hours enduring. 
  • An average duration of 8.8 hours endurance per ‘Dove Step day’.
  • The cumulative walking distance in 19 days is 437.8 miles.
  • An average walking distance of 23.4 miles per day.
  • The 25.17 miles kayaked this year is more than the distance of a channel crossing. 
  • This year’s cycling distance was 569.75 miles.
  • An average of 95 miles cycled per day for six days. 
  • With your help as supporters the Dove Step team have raised, including for Gift Aid, a total £7.5k raised over the last four years!

Never give up

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Never Give Up

Turtle Dove by Mohamed Al Mazrouei

Today is the start of recovery and a chance to reflect on the last 14 days. We will do that collectively and drop a few posts on here in due course.
Until then a huge thank you to the Dove Step 2 supporters for tipping our fundraising over-target. As a team and across four events in four years the Dove Steppers have now raised over £7.5k for the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove.
Across the two Dove Step journeys this year and last, in 27 days of output, we have covered well over 1000 miles. That’s 1000 miles of self propulsion and concerted endurance for Turtle Doves.
This figure doesn’t allow for the many more miles of training walks, rides and paddles which must cumulate into a despicable total! 
My first reflection is more of a statement! But a vital one; ‘Never Give Up‘. Usefully this is the Dove Step moto and emblazoned on our artwork by Dove Step artist Gyr Crakes. This is great although it makes it impossible to stop even if your whole body is screaming for you to do so! 
Throughout the first eight days of kayaking and cycling the daily effort was considerable. Pushing through waves and currents at sea then posting daily mileages well over 100 miles on land!
The walking leg added another dimension to the endurance; pain. This year’s journey has been largely on roadside tarmac and cycle paths. This has an incredible abrasive effect if you are walking marathon distances with average times at the ten hour mark!
Even Sir Rob ‘ever ready mountain goat‘ and ‘master of the miles‘ when it comes to walking suffered blistering, muscle pain and fatigue. 
I suffered the first couple of days as my muscles struggled to adjust from the huge cycling output to huge walking output! Then for the last few walking days I suffered because of how far we’d pushed it in the first few days! 
Still, we never gave up. Nor will we give up on Turtle Doves. Whilst there is a wealth of species very worthy of our attention and an equal number of campaigns; we like Turtle Doves
I feel this is a good reason to do our utmost for a species. Turtle Doves also have the advantage of been indicative of our ailing farmland birds, migratory birds on the Afro-European flyway and those wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed they are subject to almost all the conservation issues at large; habitat destruction, changes in agriculture, legal and illegal shooting and changes on the wintering grounds. 
Last year our fundraising was used to install 9ha of Turtle Dove friendly habitat in the eastern region. I will catch up with Operation Turtle Dove this week and establish how best these years funds may be used. One thing for sure is that the more we can offer the more that can be done! So hopefully the generousity of Dove Step 2 supporters will allow for more on the ground change.
With thanks for following, reading, donationing and supporting and remember:
Never Give Up! 


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Dove Step 2 – day fourteen


Daily distance: 16.4 miles 
Duration: 08:12:07
Weather: 16 degrees, 10mph South Westerlies, overcast and rainy!
Best birds: Fan-tailed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, 1 TURTLE DOVE.
Cumulative kayak distance: 25.17 miles
Cumulative cycle distance: 569.75 miles
Cumulative walking distance: 137.8 miles 
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 732.72miles
14 consecutive days – no rest days – a 732 mile triathlon for Turtle Doves – DONE!
Sir Robert Yaxley, walking team leader, summarises today’s proceedings:
‘The last day was not big on mileage, but with both of us, and Jonny in particular, getting to the limit of our endurance, even 16.4 miles was testing. Our pace had slowed to around two miles per hour from the usual three. Jonny’s feet and legs had degraded very badly, and it was painful to watch him struggling slowly onward, determined not to give in. Shackleton would have been proud! A welcome sight was the medieval bridge at Bayonne, but an even more welcome one was a very modern pint in the railway station! Cheers!’
Today was a suffer-fest! Across the eight hours of moving I only had small windows of comfort and various stints of considerable discomfort! 
At the worst moments I thought of our JustGiving total and the importance of not giving up – with so many people supporting our efforts for Operation Turtle Dove
To finish and see the our fundraising total hit 100% is pretty emotional! 

The brief sight of a Turtle Dove flitting over was a lift. Otherwise prolonged periods of rain, flooded footpaths and yet more tarmac and road-work meant we were tested until the bitter end!  


I type this as we speed back to Bordeaux on the TGV – the exact distance we walked over the last six days. The fact it is a two hour train journey is telling; the time spent enduring and the distances covered in the last two weeks are mind-bending! 
It will be odd getting up tomorrow without commencing the mental battle of putting on the boots and enduring!
I am incredibly proud of the team, across all three stages of this year’s journey. I am equally proud of the Dove Step supporters who have so whole-heatedly followed our journey and bolstered the fundraising total. Thank you – all.
As with last year these long journeys give a lot of opportunity to chat, daydream and conjure up new and more extreme journeys! Maybe one of these will come to fruition in coming years. 
Till then thanks for following Dove Step 2 and thanks for caring about Turtle Doves!
Jonny and the Dove Step team. 

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Dove Step 2 – day thirteen


Daily distance: 19.5 miles 
Duration: 09:29:02
Cumulative walking distance: 121.4 miles 
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 716.32miles
Weather: 23 degrees, 7mph Sorth Westerlies, cloud giving way to yet more concerted blue skies and hot, hot sun! 
Best birds: Melodious Warbler, Sandwich Tern, Raven.

After yesterday’s gruelling 28 miles of road-pounding I was feeling raw! We bedded down expectant of a good nights sleep and serious rest and recovery. For me this wasn’t to be – sore hips and feet kept me awake and I got up more exhausted than when I went to bed. 

It took a while to wake the legs up this morning and even my best pace has only peaked at 2 – 2.5mph. This plod must have been incredibly tiresome for Sir Robert Yaxley. However, he never once complained, indeed I have never heard him complain on any of our trips – no matter how grave, frustrating or unfair a situation. 
Despite my poor form we plodded to 19.5 miles and I type this in Hossegor just north of Capbreton. Our hotel room looks across to the Pyrenees forming the border between France and Spain. Whilst distance and time won’t allow us to make footfall on Spanish soil we will push as far as we are able in the morning. 
For all of yesterday and much of today I was head-down suffering, willing each step and swing of the leg. I cannot describe how it felt to see the Pyrenees and know we have traversed much of the whole country. I hope Dove Step 2 followers and supporters are not disappointed we won’t make the border. I can assure that we have pushed for as long and as far as our bodies allow. 
Crucially when undertaking a ‘A 700 mile journey for Turtle Doves‘ today we smashed the 700 mile barrier and I type this with the waves of the Atlantic breaking and looking across to the Pyranees and Spain before them. 
One more day of walking – for Turtle Doves – then this 700+ mile odyssey is over! 


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Dove Step 2 – day twelve

Daily distance: 28 miles 
Duration: 11:44:18
Cumulative walking distance: 101.9 miles 
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 696.82miles
Weather: 20 degrees, 3mph Sorth Westerlies, cloud giving way to more blue skies! 
Best birds: 2 Whimbrel in roadside field, a seemingly constant stream of Firecrest! No Turtle Dove. 

Sir Robert Yaxley, walking team leader, summarises today’s proceedings:

This was always going to be a long day, with Leon the next strategic stop after Mimizan. After looking at the route, we made a decision to mainly follow roads. This was borne out by a brief detour on to tracks, where deep sand and the lack of signage soon became an issue. So, we plugged on down the road, stringing together villages and stopping for a quick refreshment in each! By the afternoon Jonny was catatonic with exhaustion, but impressively he just kept going. There’s a few blisters in the camp, but spirits are good!’


Little to add to Sir Rob’s synopsis but massively bouyed to have posted a 28 mile day! Onwards for Turtle Doves
Our JustGiving page is looking awesome this eve. I think of our fundraising tally for Operation Turtle Dove frequently whilst plodding along – a reminder to keep pushing!  

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Dove Step 2 – day eleven 

Daily distance: 18 miles 
Duration: 07:13:34
Cumulative walking distance: 73.9 miles 
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 668.82miles
Weather: 17 degrees, 5mph North Westerlies, blue skies and unrelenting sun! 
Best birds: Yellow-legged Gull, Short-toed Treecreeper, the ubiquitous Black Redstarts and Kites.

Sir Robert Yaxley, walking team leader, summarises today’s proceedings:

Today was a slightly easier day, after the monumental effort of the first two days. Jonny got into his stride, and put behind him the serious muscle fatigue of days 1 and 2. The terrain was pleasant, through the popular lake area of Parentis, Gastes and eventually to Mimazan. Gearing up for a big day tomorrow, which might be around 30 miles down to Leon. Feet as good as can be expected, but still some unpleasant blistering. 3 more days!’

A comparatively leisurely day of just 18 miles today. We were keen to get to Mimizan and make the most of facilities after last nights bivvy. We’ve washed and dried as much kit as possible and will make a big push for Leon tomorrow – this means a distance in excess of 30 miles – which would be the furthest I’ve ever walked. 

This afternoon I finally got my walking legs after 2.5 days of brutality. My little toe looks like a squashed grape and the clearly dead toenail hangs on by tissue and sinew which still has a blood supply. 

Yesterday I got to the point of swaying and side-stepping like a Friday night drunk before Sir Rob stopped me for an enforced break. 

Today started poorly with spells whereby I nearly fell asleep whilst walking and continued muscle fatigue. However, by this afternoon my persistence paid off and my body started to follow the mind. Broadening strides and upping pace, much to Sir Rob’s delight, who has dutifully stalled himself for me up until now. 

I cannot describe the cumulative effect of huge output over eleven days and 668 miles but I’ve never felt like this before! 

We are currently eating a hearty meal ahead of tomorrow’s big push. Spain may not be in our grasp but we will definitely break the primary goal of ‘A 700 mile journey for Turtle Doves‘ over the next 48 hours. Thereafter we will seek to walk as far as possible towards the Spanish border. 

The following quote from Bill Bryson via my Mum sums up our predicament:

Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the limits of conception.’

We will endure as hard as we can and for as long as we can. For Turtle Doves and those who have so generously given to our JustGiving fundraising page. 

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Dove Step 2 – day ten


Daily distance: 29.55 miles 
Duration: 12:53:07
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 650.82miles
Weather: 17 degrees, 18mph North Westerlies, early rain giving way to sunny spells then overcast. 
Best birds: 4 TURLE DOVE, Crested Tit
Sir Robert Yaxley, walking team leader, summarises today’s proceedings:

A testing day along straight tracks, first forest roads and then a brutal 15km along the highway. Both our feet took a pounding on the highway, and Jonny’s muscle fatigue was an issue. The sun, though never really hot, was strong and while Jonny borrowed my bush hat I was reduced to wearing undergarments on my head. But we did get to our destination at Parentis, and are now bivied out under the stars being slightly nibbled by small insects, c’est la vie!’


Next level endurance for me today. Over marathon distance again with the previous nine days of output catching up on my body. Muscle fatigue and physical exhaustion are hard to win over with the mind! 
Now tucked up in bivvy – will sleep a good sleep despite our less than salubrious surrounds! 

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Dove Step 2 – day nine

Daily distance: 26.35 miles 
Duration: 10:35:45
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 621.27 miles
Weather: 17 degrees, 6mph South Westerlies, early rain giving way to prolonged sun!
Best birds: Bonelli’s Warbler, Golden Oriole, Dartford Warbler.
Sir Robert Yaxley, walking team leader, summarises today’s proceedings: 

Day one of the walking leg started well, with a welcome cool drizzle and the boys in high spirits after the amazing cycling leg.

We ambled through the outskirts of Bordeaux before hitting the track south of the main Bordeaux to Arcachon railway. This, with a few minor diversions, provided a nice straight track for us, through flat and mainly forested country.

There were lots of birds, with Bonelli’s Warbler and Nightingale common, also Golden Oriole and Hoopoes. 

In the afternoon Stu hit a wall, with badly blistered feet, and very reluctantly we had to say goodbye to him. Thanks to him for all his efforts to get this far! Jonny and I carried on, now crashing in Biganos

Having said goodbye to cycle team leader Ed Waterston first thing it was crushing to also say goodbye to Stu Moore. Stu has done every leg to date which has inevitably taken it toll. We totally respect his decision to leave and given the rigours of the last 9 days it is fully understandable. Stu; whole hearted thanks for enduring, for Turtle Doves, for the last 9 days.

With the emotion of the day, the marathon distance, plus the bodily difficulties of switching from non-stop cycling to walking, I am shattered! 
The heat and distance meant inevitable hot-spots on the feet and my little toes bore the brunt today. I think they were already degraded from the cycling shoes. I managed the left toe well but didn’t get to the right in time. With gruesome consequences. It looks like I will loose the little toe nail on that foot.
Still, I don’t really notice them most of the time so I am sure I won’t miss it.
Hope to articulate further how insane the endurance and distance tomorrow – but right now I am spent! Good night. 
Onwards for Turtle Doves and please visit our JustGiving


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