Dove Step 2 – day eight

Daily distance: 78.18 miles 
Cumulative cycle distance: 569.75 miles 
Duration: 09:10:26 (with enforced break in Blaye waiting for ferry)
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 594.92 miles
Weather: 15 degrees, 6mph South easterlies, early cloud cover giving way to sunny spells!
Best birds: Hoopoe – two heard and three seen close-to, the ever present Nightingale are now joined by many Black Kite. We also encountered just one Turtle Dove – whilst not matching yesterday’s heady heights of seven it was awesome non-the-less. 
Ed; ‘the ferry ride and relaxing whilst waiting for the ferry on the grass in Blaye. The smooth run into the finish at Bordeaux with the sun on our backs. Sad to be leaving the gruesome twosome after enduring, living, sleeping and eating together for six days straight‘. 
Stu; ‘good views of Hoopoe and shed loads of Black Kites. Loved riding through the masses of vineyards. The lack of predicted rain was very welcome too.’
Despite the reduced mileage at just below the eighty mile mark, perhaps owing to the cumulative fatigue, it was a hard day’s pedalling. 
We are now supping a beer and awaiting the arrival of our walking team leader Sir Robert Yaxley. The team are buoyed and I am unable to process the sheer distance we have covered. Fatigue aside we had no discomforts, injury, mechanical issue or crashes that stopped us in our tracks. 
The second leg of our 700 mile triathlon couldn’t have gone better. We feel we have justified the donations recieved via the JustGiving page and done Operation Turtle Dove proud. 
At this stage in our odyssey I have to whole heartedly thank our team leader Mr Ed Waterston for both enabling and executing our almost 570 miles through France. Epic doesn’t even come close. 
As we await Sir Rob and the hand-over from cycling to walking leg I just revived this quote to spur us on, across the remaining 150 walking miles and all the way to the Spanish border: 
‘In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.’ John Muir.

Please check back on our progress across the next six days and if you have not already visit the JustGiving page. 

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Dove Step 2 – day seven 

Daily distance: 91.40 miles 
Cumulative cycle distance: 491.57 miles 
Duration: 08:44:26 
Cumulative Dove Step 2 distance: 516.74 miles
Weather: 22 degrees, 5mph South westerlies, sunny – early cloud cover giving way to true blue!
Best birds: Hoopoe – two heard and one seen in flight, the ever present Nightingale and a Black Kite. 
Oh, plus seven (yes 7) TURTLE DOVES! We encountered 4 huddled together on telegraph wires. Then a pair at a crossroads – one of which was purring away. We finished  with one more bird happily perched in the roadside thickets. Awesome. Absolutely awesome. 
Perhaps telling it took over 500 miles of cycling – away from the UK – plus over 90 miles of cycling today to encounter a Turtle Dove. I am delighted, inspired and buoyed for the remaining miles of endurance. 
Speaking of which Sir Rob of Dove Step 1 fame is arriving into Bordeuax to coincide with our completion of the cycle leg tomorrow. 
This of course means we are going straight from kayaking over 25 miles, cycling 560+ miles and into walking over 150 miles
However, as I said yesterday, extreme situations require extreme responses. We may have seen 7 Turtle Dove (across 90 miles of cycling) today but even here on the continent they have declined 74% since 1980.  


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Dove Step 2 – day six

Daily distance: 112.4
Cumulative cycle distance: 400.17
Duration: 09:52:97
Cumulative distance: 425.34 miles
Weather: 21 degrees, 5mph westerlies, sunny – clear skies.
Best birds: Great White Egret, lots of Cuckoo, Nightingale from first waking till the end of the cycling day at various locations, Common Sandpipers, Woodlark and lots of Terns. But still no Turtle Dove!
Stu; feeding at the end of the day, stretching on the grass and beatific weather! Non-stop countryside all so different to the UK.
Ed; seeing the Hotel F1 sign at the end of the day 


Today was the defintion of endurance. It is now dawning on me the implications of what I set out to do; a channel crossing equivalent and whole country traverse – for Turtle Doves. 
We have have, over the last 4 days, cycled over 400 miles and spent over 39 hours in the saddle. 
We have spent 41% of the last four days cycling. Which doesn’t leave too much time for feeding, sleeping and recovering.
This journey is immense. Although I perhaps didn’t understand the scale of it whilst formulating the idea – I couldn’t be happier! 
The number of UK breeding Turtle Doves have declined by 96% in my lifetime. Extreme situations require extreme responses. I am proud that Dove Step 2 is just that. 
Stu has a handy phone pocket on his cycling Jersey which means he’s taken many of the photos to date. So this eve we’ve made sure there is plenty of Stu pics – for Mrs Moore and the Stu fans.  


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Dove Step 2 – day five

Daily distance: 94.52
Cumulative cycle distance: 287.77
Duration: 08:14:52
Cumulative distance: 312.94 miles
Weather: 18 degrees average – 30 degrees max, 12mph Easterlies, sunny – clear skies. 
Best birds: reeling roadside Grasshopper Warbler, Nightingale singing away outside our digs this eve. 

Stu; longest decent ever done. Getting more comfortable descending at speed
Ed; group efficient! We worked really well as a team today. Ate the miles and the best thing was there was no puncture (from Jonny). Far fewer navigational glitches too
Milestones: half way and three out of six days into the cycle leg. Over 300 miles into this year’s journey for Turtle Doves! Nine days of endurance left to do!  


Despite a wealth of road side birds; with a multitude of warblers, Nightingales, a few raptors and lots of farmland birds. We are yet to encounter a Turtle Dove! We eagerly await our first!
This evening we are staying in Le Man which excites the motor sports fans in the team. I am happy with the Nightingale singing away outside of our window on an otherwise lacklustre industrial estate. 
Big day of over 100 miles tomorrow so going to sleep-bank for an early start and more mile-eating for Turtle Doves. 
Be sure to visit our JustGiving if you are able. Tomorrow we break the 400 mile barrier! 


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Dove Step 2 – day four 

Daily distance: 79.65 miles
Cumulative cycle distance: 193.25
Duration: 08:30:37
Cumulative distance: 218.42 miles
Weather: 23 degrees, 9mph South Easterlies, sunny – clear skies. 
Best birds: Cuckoos as we left Dieppe. Lots of farmland birds – but no Turtle Dove as yet.
Stu; ‘that’s the hardest climbing I’ve ever done. Ridiculously steep. We did, however, go through some stunning towns and villages.’
Ed; ‘we massively underestimated today. I really hope Jonny washes his cycling kit with travel detergent tomorrow.’
So we are now over 193 miles from Calais (in 2 days) and Stu and I are over 218 miles into the 700 mile triathlon called Dove Step 2.
Today was absolutely BRUTAL. With 80 miles of non-stop climbing, a crash and a 20 minute jaunt into the woods… lost.


In addition to this, in order to avoid some major roads, we ended up covering close to five miles on crazy farm tracks. Puncture count now at four. All on my bike.
Tomorrow is another (90 mile) day. 


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Dove Step 2 – day three


Daily distance: 113.6 miles 
Duration: 11:43:51
Cumulative distance: 138.77 miles
Weather: 17 degrees, 11mph South Easterlies, sunny. Like really sunny. Like a hotter Sahara. 
Best birds: singing Black Redstart in Calais, several roadside singing Nightingales and lots of singing warblers en route too. 
Before I regail you with today’s frankly preposterous mile eating. It’s worth remembering that the last two days we kayaked over 25 miles! The equivalent of a channel crossing. Mr Kurt Finch of Nomad Sea Kayaking had the following to say of the Dove Step teams efforts: 

I’m very proud of the groups efforts; it wasn’t easy, particularly day one and every member of the team showed guts and tenacity. Well done to all and best of luck to the lads in the rest of their tough challenge. Be strong and be safe.’

Of today’s 113 miles! The cycle team had the following to say: 
Stu (Norfolk resident); ‘Unusually long hills over here in France!’
Ed; ‘Thank goodness for the Garmin Edge (known lovingly as Gavin) – our only navigation, map, route plan, saviour and guide. Also, knowing that Jonny hadn’t even ridden a road bike six months ago, he gave a  pretty fricken impressive performance!’ 
Whilst the ride didn’t give Ed any fresh PBs he did consume a record 5 gels. For Stu; he clocked his greatest ascent in meters as well as the longest climbing distance. Plus got the most sunburnt whilst riding! 
For me (Jonny) everything was new! Despite my northern complexion I avoided sunburn with near hysterical levels of sun cream. I have clocked my longest climbs and distance. In fact the 113 miles is almost twice the longest distance I’ve ever covered before! 
The scenery was beautiful. The riding was at times incredibly tough. We ran out of food and water. I thought I was going to pass out half way up one particularly steep climb mid arvo. But we did it!
Having caught the ferry in the wee hours, cycled for so long and so far, I cannot really articulate the enormity of the day right now!
A more modest 75 miles to cover tomorrow – wish us luck! 
Please visit our JustGiving page and good night.


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Dove Step 2 – day two


Daily distance: 13.28 miles 
Duration: 04:41:36
Cumulative distance: 25.17 miles
Weather: Overcast, sunny spells, 9 degrees, 7mph south easterlies
Sea state: 3, some rough. No capsizes. No vomiting! 
Best birds: Yellow Wagtail and Sedge Warbler. 
Much calmer today in terms of both the elements and the team. No constant buffeting from the wind. No capsizes. No vomiting. 
We did however have to contend with two river mouth crossings; the Deben and the Orwell. As well as this we crossed the shipping channel for Harwich and Felixstowe ports.
So although Mother Nature was kind today we wrestled with man-made peril! 
It was an honour to paddle the channel crossing equivalent distance with Kurt Finch, Stu Moore, Andrew Goodrick and Ed King
With thanks for making the first leg of our 700 mile triathlon a success. 
Now driving with Ed Waterston, cycle leg team leader, to Dover. We make the ferry crossing in the wee hours and the first days cycling is upwards of 100 miles! 
Please follow our journey via this blog, support our fundraising and wish us well! 
Onwards – for Turtle Doves


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Dove Step 2 – day one

Daily distance: 11.89 miles 

Duration: 05:46:23

Weather: Blue skies, 9 degrees, 15mph North Easterlies.

Sea state: 4 – 5, strong winds, rough, 2m swell. 

Best bird seen: Wheatear


We’re finally underway! 
Kurt Finch of Nomad Sea Kayaking had the following to say of our days efforts:
Guys did really well. Launching into conditions well above their ability levels. Impressed with Stu’s recovery following a capsize – which went smoothly. Ed did particularly well in his short waterlined boat – keep pace with the longer sea kayaks. Gooders did well to keep up despite double-figure vomiting episodes owing to motion sickness. We worked hard and we’re looking forward to our beds
We are now set up in camp and warmed having brewed-up and fed. A surprise this evening was meeting Ms Lucy Newcombe who is the start of her journey to circumnavigate the country! 
I actually managed to pitch in straight away attempting a launch into surf! This coupled with others getting tipped over by the surf as well as the motion sickness means we have earned our sleeping bags!
Be sure to follow our second and final day’s kayaking tomorrow and if you are able to support our JustGiving fundraising efforts if you are able. We aren’t doing this for fun – we are doing it for Turtle Doves


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Wild Frontier Ecology and Dove Step…

20100322 plover
The Dove Step campaign is very lucky to have the support of a select few companies: all of which we are extremely grateful to. Wild Frontier Ecology has championed the Dove Step campaign from first principles, through bolstering our fundraising total each year and by allowing its director Sir Robert Yaxley to walk hundreds of miles over days and weeks.
The Team - Wild Frontier Ecology

The Team – Wild Frontier Ecology

With just days left until we commence this years epic journey I wanted readers to hear directly from Sir Rob and on behalf of Wild Frontier Ecology:
I have surveyed birds for about 30 years both in a professional and personal capacity. During that time there have been some massive changes in my local avifauna. There have been some welcome additions, such as Common Buzzard, Little Egret and Cetti’s Warbler, but these have been more than offset by the disappearance (or nearly so) of other species – for example, Willow Tit, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove. The reasons for these disappearances are often complex.  With the Turtle Dove, it is apparent that it has been hit hard by the reduced plant diversity in the countryside, the dangers of long-distance migration and probably the parasite Trichomonas gallinae.

No decline on the scale shown by turtle doves (decline by 74% across Europe since 1980) is going to be reversed by a single action. But last years’ 300 mile walk, completed by the Dove Step team, raised enough money to install 9 hectares of feeding habitat. This small amount can make a difference, but perhaps more importantly, raised awareness will help to create stronger public support for the Turtle Dove and other species threatened in our wider countryside.

Knowing this I believe it would be wrong to stand by and let Turtle Doves become extinct in the UK without a really big effort to save them. This is what has driven myself and the other Dove Step team members to a really mammoth physical effort. Also, as ecologists, it is within our professional gift to advise on impacts on threatened species, and to recommend actions towards providing for these species in the future. So on both a personal and organisational level, this is a Good Thing

And that is why Wild Frontier Ecology supports Dovestep 2.
Sir Robert Yaxley – April, 2015
Check out Wild Frontier via their website and also Facebook page. Follow our journey via this blog from this Saturday, 18th April and support our fundraising for Operation Turtle Dove via the JustGiving page.
DS2 info graphic

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Maltese Referendum – moving forward…

Here the outward show is nothing, it is the inward purpose that counts. So the ‘Gods’ dwindle and the humble supplant them. Pretence is useless.’

Captain Scott – 5 May, 1911

This quote was left, along with a donation on our JustGiving page, by West Suffolk birder and upmost gent Mr Darren Underwood. I felt emotional reading it.
Not least because of the huge affections I feel for Captain Scott and his son but also because of the strain left by the failure of the Maltese referendum on Spring hunting today.

Fingers crossed the Maltese vote 'NO' to Spring hunting.

Time is a healer and however validated the shooting lobby feel in this instance, there are many things that shall outlive the referendum: The EU for starters, Birdlife Malta for seconds and of course the Dove Step campaign.
This year is only the second of four planned journeys to leave a self propelled line from Saltholme RSPB all the way to Africa.
Dove Step gives a group of friends, dedicated to enacting change, a huge output through the planning, training, executing and promoting of each journey.
To speak for myself; I cannot imagine how I would deal with the flagrant disrespect shown by Maltese shooters if I wasn’t about to exert for Turtle Doves, for 14 days and across 700 miles.
Darren also tweeted an acute reminder as to why we are so invested in the Dove Step campaign and Operation Turtle Dove:
My local patch Turtle Dove records: a single flock of 165 birds on 12/08/1990; total count for 2014, zero #longmelford #extinct
Despite the disappointment of today’s referendum result there are glimmers of hope:
  • Malta is a microcosm of the European Union albeit a damaging one.
  • The ignorance of a proportion of the population doesn’t colour all the islanders.
  • All other EU member states have outlawed (legal) shooting of Turtle Dove in the Spring.
  • There are individuals such as Fiona Burrows on the ground, risking personal safety to protect migrant birds.
  • The referendum has raised the shooting of Turtle Dove and other migrants at international level; gaining column inches and reaction from both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps.
  • Operation Turtle Dove, inclusive of its partners, are working to support Turtle Doves across their range.
  • ‘Our’ Turtle Doves at least avoid the eastern flyway over Malta used predominantly by Balkan breeders.
  • The Dove Step team won’t stop over a referendum result, online detractors or any barrier to stabilisation of the European Turtle Dove population.
Please support our fundraising and the objectives of Operation Turtle Dove, which comprises of three parts:
  1. building on research into the Turtle Dove breeding grounds in England

  2. establishing feeding habitat over core breeding range through advisory and farmer initiatives

  3. research into factors operating during migration and at wintering areas

Last year’s fundraising equated to 9ha of installed Turtle Dove habitat in the Eastern Region. This year we hope to at least match if not better this, the more we raise the more that becomes possible!
Turtle Dove plots installed following last years fundraising.

Turtle Dove plots installed following last years fundraising.

Follow our journey via this blog from the 18th April and support our fundraising for Turtle Dove via the JustGiving page.
DS2 info graphic

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