The Dovestep team are all set to smash their own fundraising records for Turtle Doves in Spain this February, and what an adventure awaits them…
What’s not to love about Turtle Doves? Behind that gentle appearance, delicately-patterned plumage and soft purring song masquerades a tough migratory traveller, a great conquistador of distance, completing a 7,000 mile return trip to Africa each year, crossing the Sahara and running the gauntlet of legal and illegal hunting on the way.
How sad that on arrival back in their N European breeding grounds there is no warm welcome, just intensive agriculture, disease spread by introduced birds, and lack of the seed food from wild plants they need to regain their strength.
The impacts of these challenges are proving disastrous. In the UK only three birds remain for every hundred there were in 1970, and numbers are still in free fall.
Before our move to Spain, the ‘Bustards’ devoted a large chunk of our careers to trying to halt their catastrophic decline in the UK. It’s something that will always be close to our hearts, particularly as our UK breeders will soon be stopping to rest here at Huerta Grande after crossing the Straits of Gibraltar on their way home.
For this reason, we and the Huerta Grande team are chuffed to bits to be able to support our own softly-purring conquistador of distance, Jonny Rankin, and his delicately-plumaged crew as they embark on DOVE STEP 3 – an epic on-foot crossing of Spain to raise money for Turtle Dove conservation .
The first Dove Step journey, a 300 mile walk for Turtle Doves, was completed in April 2014 and saw Robert Yaxley, Andrew Goodrick and Jonny Rankin walk from Lakenheath Fen RSPB to Saltholme RSPB, covering the core UK range of Turtle Doves in the process.
The second, in May 2015, was a 700 mile triathlon and included a Channel Crossing equivalent sea kayak, 570 mile cycle and 140 mile walk, connecting Suffolk to Spain.
The third, beginning on 5 February this year, will be an exhausting on-foot exploration of the Spanish leg of the Turtle Dove’s journey.
Walking from south to north with back-to-back marathon distances each day for over 700 miles, the lads will be starting their adventure on Tarifa beach just down the road from us, and concluding on the northern coast looking out into the Bay of Biscay.
To date, the Dove Step campaigns have raised £9k in support of Operation Turtle Dove. This impressive amount has been used to fund such projects as habitat creation on UK farmland, and satellite tags to better understand what happens to the birds during migration.
They want to make this year the biggest yet, with a fund-raising target of £10,000. We’re thrilled to have the chance to greet them with Fumitory garlands, put them up and help them out logistically on the first legs of their tiring journey.