30 days!

Just 30 days until the walk commences! 30 days until we Dove Step away from Lakenheath Fen RSPB and set a bearing north!

As much as I am intimidated by the challenge I think we have all prepared extremely well for the distances involved and I couldn’t be happier with the assembled team. We are gradually refining the route for each day and getting precise distances as well as camp sites or accommodation. At 27.9miles Day 1 of Dove Step will be the furthest distance I have ever walked!

The remaining days we have tallied up all hover around the same marathon distance.

As mentioned we have all been busy training; Sir Rob covered 40 miles over two days this weekend walking the north Norfolk coast, a sure demonstration that he’ll be able to cope with the Dove Step mileage.

Sir Rob – rightly pleased to be the correct side of 40 miles worth of training walk!

Meanwhile Tris was busy pounding the hills with his first of many planned marathons this year; the Grizedale 26. You can read all about his incredible feat of endurance over on Tris’s website.

Tris post marathon and with a badge of honour!
Tris post marathon and with his badge of honour!

Goodrick and myself have been doing some more modest training runs ahead of this weekends Anglesey Half Marathon, The Island Race. It will be great to sport our green RSPB vests and enjoy the best of Anglesey on foot!

In parallel with our urge to move northward for Dove Step, Turtle Doves wintering in sub Saharan Africa will be orientating north around the same time we do. I happened across this French website and the Turtle Dove Research currently ongoing by Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (Oncfs):

During the 2013 breeding season, 3 adult Turtle Doves were captured in the south west of France (Poitou-Charentes region), within the Chizé forest, and fitted with these transmitters. These 3 birds are closely surveyed since then: satellite tags alternate 10 hours transmitting periods and 48 hours in “sleeping” mode during which batteries are charged thanks to the solar cells. (Copyright Oncfs, February 2014).

Of the birds satellite tagged, Bird 1 ‘Marcel’ produced the most informative data and was tracked all the way from the south of France to the wintering area south east of Mali in the Niger River Valley:

Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 6th – 16th September 2013 Copyright ONCFS
Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 15th September – 2nd October 2013 Copyright ONCFS
Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 29th September – 8th December 2013 Copyright ONCFS
Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 7th December 2013 – 14th February 2014 Copyright ONCFS

It will be interesting to see if ‘Marcel’ offers insight into the return migration route for Turtle Doves this spring and the Dove Step team eagerly awaits updates from the excellent Oncfs project. It is notable that last years migration skirted west Africa, through Morocco and Western Sahara before heading inland to Mali. Interestingly, this west coast route would be the most feasible for us humans wishing to get to the same end point. Although this is more for reasons of political and social unrest in addition to the hostility of the desert.

Red dots shown possible two-way border crossings, though not all in the desert are accessible. Many other border crossings are used by locals, but are closed to non-Africans or tourists without good connections.
Purple lines show the two main trans-Sahara routes at the moment; the orange route is the classic Hoggar route that hasn’t been done since about 2010. Red lines show borders which cannot be crossed legitimately (some may be mined and you may be arrested or run into bandits/smugglers/rebels/terrorists). Unmarked border lines can, up to a point be crossed as long as you check into the nearest immigration point. Some pass through extremely remote or outlaw areas where you still may get arrested or robbed. As you can see, it’s principally northern Mali and Niger – not a place where any tourists go at the moment. No entry signs relate to regions, not entire countries, and only the main current no-go areas are identified.
Wherever possible use official border crossings, marked with the red dot or expect the consequences outlined above. Copyright Sahara Overland http://saharaoverland.wordpress.com/home/

As ever many, many thanks for reading and following our progress. A whole hearted thanks to our sponsors and supporters, be sure to check out the recently updated ‘Supporters‘ page and if you are able do consider a visit to the JustGiving page.  

30 days and counting!


Wild Frontier Ecology joins Dove Step!

20100322 WFE 20100322 plover

Regular readers will have seen from Sir Rob’s post some seriously exciting news (and his battered toe nail!), the eagle eyed amongst you will also have noticed the addition of Wild Frontier as a Dove Step sponsor on the right hand side of the blog.

Wild Frontier have kindly come on board as our first corporate sponsor the result of which is a serious boost to our fundraising total on the JustGiving page. Between Wild Frontier and a number of private donors the last week has seen us surpass our previous fundraising target already! It is a happy requirement that we are discussing a reasonable upwards revision to our target. With many, many thanks to both Wild Frontier and also those individuals who have chosen to support Dove Step, Operation Turtle Dove and also the RSPB.

Wild Frontier are an independent ecological consultancy, based in Norfolk but working across the UK for a number of clients including statutory advisors, developers, conservation bodies, landowners and local governments.

Be sure to view the Wild Frontier website for their full capabilities including the surveys they undertake, development services and news via the Wild Frontier blog.

Although best known for his expeditions and world travel Sir Rob holds a directorship at Wild Frontier and has the following to say on behalf of Wild Frontier Ecology:

As ecologists, we get some opportunity to be involved in habitat enhancement, some of which benefits farmland birds such as the turtle dove. But the situation is now so urgent for this species in particular, that direct action for fundraising and awareness raising, such as that being taken by the Dovestep team, is necessary. I am delighted that Wild Frontier Ecology have the opportunity to be very much a part of this initiative, and hope that other corporate sponsors will come forward and make every mile walked a big step closer to securing the future of our farmland birds“.

A huge thank you to Wild Frontier Ecology and poignant words from Sir Rob there. Do get in touch if your company would like to become a corporate sponsor of Dove Step and members of the team will be happy to discuss what we can offer in return – aside from the satisfaction of supporting Operation Turtle Dove!

Just 46 days and 7 weeks  until we commence our march – as a team we are getting seriously excited!


Lots to report since Sir Rob’s last post sharing his motivations for joining the Dove Step team.

Firstly, we have pinned down the route! We know, if all goes to plan, where we will be and when. We will be posting more detail about the route on ‘The Journey’ page but the end point for each day is as follows:

  1. Start Lakenheath Fen RSPB;
  2. Wiggenhall St Germans;
  3. Gedney Drove End;
  4. Frampton Marsh RSPB;
  5. Wainfleet All Saints;
  6. Mablethorpe;
  7. Humberston;
  8. Skitter Ness;
  9. Langtoft;
  10. Scarborough;
  11. Whitby;
  12. Saltburn; and
  13. Saltholme RSPB.
Sir Rob route finding

Should you have a five star (will accept four) accommodation, a summer house, or even a garden shed you would like us to sleep in then we would happily do so.  In return all we’d ask for is hot food, cold beers and perhaps washing facilities?

One planned route – thats a lot of maps!

Seriously, aside from the RSPB reserves if you are able to recommend places to camp/ stay it would be greatly appreciated. We hope to coincide our time at the RSPB reserves with visiting hours so we can talk to people about the journey and Turtle Doves. Maybe we will see you there?

Turtle Doves – thats what its all about!

As well as pinning down the route, training has continued in earnest. We are learning lessons quickly and in many cases the hard way (blisters, chaffing, etc!) and have a big training weekend scheduled at the beginning of next month.

In addition the fundraising total is rising which is really heartening, after all along with raising awareness for Operation Turtle Dove the primary aim of Dove Step is to raise funds to support the research and improved habitat so vital to halting the decline of Turtle Doves.