As mentioned in the Friday round up! The big news at present is the release of the latest Bird Atlas 2007 – 11 I know several members of the Dove Step team participated in the survey effort which was undertaken by 40 000 volunteers! There is a helpful review of the Atlas over on Mark Avery’s site.
Obviously, the first thing we did was thumb through to find the Turtle Dove pages. The BTO have kindly allowed me to replicate the Turtle Dove plate and a couple of comparatives past distribution maps (click to view larger):
Looking at the 1968 – 72 breeding distribution closely followed by the 2008 – 11 is a deeply saddening experience. A huge geographic contraction couple with a free-fall of confirmed breeding dots.
This comparison is helpfully translated into the above ‘All Atlases’ figure. The thirteen upward ‘gain’ arrows are overwhelmed by the mass of grey ‘loss’ arrows bordering the west of the range and eating eastwards into the core breeding distribution.
So, what do we take from this dramatic decline?
Firstly, supporting Operation Turtle Dove is a great use of our time and effort! The research and advice Operation Turtle Dove are able to undertake is the ‘front line’ in trying to alter the dramatic decline shown in the above maps. Of course this is only achievable with the necessary funding.
To this end we are doing what we can to spread awareness and fundraise. Using what we have available to us – which is basically our bodies and time off! Dove Step was the natural conclusion we came to. Through Dove Step and covering the whole of the core breeding distribution or Turtle Dove ‘heartland’ we hope others will be moved to help Operation Turtle Dove and perhaps even donate via the JustGiving page?
The sun is shining and the air is taut with the electricity of anticipation. The weekend heralds yet more Dove Step training!
Before the next chapter of this adventure is written I thought I would take the opportunity to do a quick round up.
Training is progressing extremely well, I know all the team has cleaned the 100km mark distance wise this month alone and Tris has actually run over 100 miles! You can read about the Peak District training weekend and Robs reflections on last week via the last couple of posts.
I noticed that the miles covered this month have resulted in a leathery / callused sole on both feet. An interesting new feature! If I feel sufficiently confident I may post a picture in the coming days.
Otherwise ‘The Journey‘ page has been updated with more detail including the leaving date (29th March), where we intend to be each day and the RSPB reserves we will visit. Do take a look and any offers of accommodation, food and drink along the route would be most valiant.
I am sure some readers will have noticed the buzz around the newly released BTO Bird Atlas both online and also in the mainstream press. We are of course wondering what the atlas will show us about Turtle Doves… to that end look out for a post next week, when all will be revealed!
After an evening of cider (!) and whisky at the domicile of Jonny of the Arctic and Pacific, we set off, haggard and raw on a previously reconnoitred walk on a grey Saturday. The plan was to circumnavigate the King’s Forest, setting off from Bury St Edmunds, taking in the birding hotspots of Berners Heath and Lackford Lakes on the way. Very nice, you’re thinking, but this is a cool 25 miles, and not to be messed with. Jonny kept the runkeeper app running on his phone, so we could keep a close track on our progress.
Walking along a river, we soon encountered some of the local colour, a kingfisher. There were lots of other birds around, which helped to pass the time, as I couldn’t get a word out of Jonny; he’s such a wallflower;-)
After a while, it was time to stop, but you know, when you start walking, you don’t really want to stop. You almost have to make yourself do it. Anyhow, quick coffee, and off again at a brisk pace. We encountered a lovely group of trekking ladies, who had come all the way from Thetford, but otherwise absolutely no-one else. A lunchtime stop, after about 12 miles, at the expansive Berner’s Heath was quite chilly, and within a few minutes I was feeling quite cold. There was a shy stonechat there, and a whole crop of fieldfares whirling around a curious herd of goats in amongst the bushy heather.
So after lunch the physical side of the walk begins to kick in. Any aches and pains, blisters and chafes, start to show themselves. This time I was lucky, nothing much to report except some stiffness in the left leg. This is an old recurring problem from a disc injury a couple of years ago, so to be expected. Jonny was in one piece as well, so we walked on through the beautiful grass heath to the west of the King’s Forest southward and downward towards West Stow and Lackford. Jonny gave me a sample of American native peoples’ chanting as we walked, which was nice. At Lackford Lakes, which is a splendid Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve, well worth a visit, we bought tea and cake:
When we told the nice lady what we were up to, and that we had just walked 19 miles, bless her she gave us a free mince pie!! Whoop whoop! An omen of things to come, I hope! Also at Lackford, nice wildfoul, goldeneye and goosander. Anyway, that spurred us on for the last burst, when I sang a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody fairly loudly in the gathering gloom, putting at least four golfers off their swings.
The walk ended back at Jonny Towers, tired but a great sense of achievement. What did I learn? Make sure you know where you can doo a number twooo! Thanks to Sir Rankin and Lady Fee for putting up with me:-) Last thought: If a turtle dove can fly 6000 miles in a year (or more), then I can walk 300. So could you.
I am writing this the right side of 100km worth of training so far this month. The lions share of which was done in the Peak District, with a further 40km yesterday and the remaining distance made up of training runs with the dog.
Despite the lull in updates on here we continue to make good progress with preparations. As can be seen from both Sir Rob and Tris updates last month, as well as getting some miles in our legs, we are testing equipment to maximise success in both training and of course during Dove Step itself.
As an extension of this expect some equipment reviews over the coming days and weeks. We have no brand allegiance and as such will review items openly. We would be equally willing to test kit if you or your company are confident enough to offer it up…
So as mentioned two super fulfilling weekends of training already this month with lots of important lessons learnt ahead of next April.
Here are the notes made in the tent after the first days efforts in the Peak District, back on Saturday 2nd:
A full eight hours of effort today with c20kg packs & 20+ mile covered in, at times, prohibitive weather.
With Gooders outdoors skills/ equipment & my manhauling of sufficent beer & whiskey we have established a cool but dry & comfortable camp.
I type this tent-clad & wrapped in me sleeping bag. Although the wind is raging & rain lashing Gooders tarp allowed us to cook & shelter for a few hours & following the exertion of the day I will sleep well!
I don’t know how far exactly we’ve covered but it’s in excess of 20m & with heavy packs. When we take them off for a break it feels like your body re-grows the compounded inches & you gain a foot in height!
With the booze & feed rations now depleted tomorrow should be easier going.
Our first days effort saw us meander between Baslow, Hathersage and Ladybower before camping above Ladybower reservoir itself. The next day we broke camp and headed back towards Sheffield parallel with Snakes Pass but via open country. It was a magic and truly epic weekend.
I learnt a lot from Gooders (correct way to peg out a tent, how to put up a tarp shelter, not to leave your bag cover off overnight!) and we established a good idea of the times required to break camp, cook and boil water. All tasks we will want to be second nature by the end of March.
Here are some pics showing why it was all worth it (aside from our unrelenting Turtle Dove drive):
So, the Peaks proved we could cover ground with all we needed to camp and still get up the next morning to carry on! Success.
Yesterday Sir Rob joined me to do a practice day – covering the full daily total of 40km / 25mile through Suffolk Breckland. Again we weighted to mimic a typical day on Dove Step. Here is the route we covered and the all important stats:
So, plenty of momentum. I am sure Sir Rob will post his side of events from yesterday in due course and I know Tris and Gooders are equally high-achieving with their own training . We have also settled on a start date; 29th March 2014 – which if we are successful, will see us arrive into Saltholme RSPB on Thursday 10th April.
Finally, thank you!
Thanks for reading this, thanks to those who have donated to the JustGiving page which we are proud has already crept up to £120! Also, with many thanks to those who have got in touch to offer help and accommodation. We very much look forward to starting at Lakenheath RSPB and arriving into Saltholme RSPB.