Miguel López (SEO-BirdLife) tells us how one man’s determined mission to save the Turtle Dove is taking him on an epic hike across Europe.
Jonny Rankin is a British birdwatching enthusiast with a mission: to help to save the Turtle Dove, a migratory bird whose population has plummeted by nearly 80% in Europe since 1980. To achieve this goal, he dreamed up the ‘Dove Step’ initiative – he will walk the length of this beautiful bird’s springtime migratory route over Europe in order to raise awareness of the species’ plight and raise funds for its conservation. He has set himself a fund raising target of £4,000 for the conservation actions of Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership initiative coordinated by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and SEO/BirdLife (Birdlife in Spain).
The next stage of this mission takes him to Spain, where Turtle Dove numbers have fallen by 30% since 1998. Rankin has set himself the task of covering the 700 miles that stretch from Tarifa (near Gibraltar) to Gijón on Spain's northern coast in only 28 days, following the ancient trading route 'Vía de la Plata' for most of the way. This mirrors the Turtle Dove’s journey as it returns from Africa in the spring to spend the summer breeding season in Europe. Seville, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, Léon and Oviedo are just some of the pit stops along the way, and friends and supporters will join him along the route to help him.
This is not the first challenge that Rankin has taken on for the Turtle Dove's benefit. A 300 mile walk in 2014 took him through the heart of the species' range in England. He followed this with a 700 mile kayak-cycle-walk in 2015 from the English coast, south along the bird's migratory route through France to the Spanish border – raising a jaw-dropping total of over £8000. After crossing Spain, Jonny has his sights set on Africa where he will complete the rest of the dove’s migratory route.
Jonny starts his Spanish odyssey on Sunday 5th February from Tarifa Beach and thanks to donations from both friends and followers, he has already raised over £1500 before even taking his first (dove) step. RSPB and SEO/BirdLife encourage anyone interested in birds, wildlife and the work of associated charities to donate or raise funds to show their solidarity with Jonny and support BirdLife partners in Europe working to save the species.
Donations can be made here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DoveStep3.
 Operation Turtle Dove is a partnership conservation initiative between the RSPB, SEO, Conservation Grade, Natural England and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and was launched in spring 2012. The partnership aims to identify the primary causes of the turtle dove decline and develop and deploy urgent practical solutions. For more information: www.operationturtledove.org.