THREE wildlife enthusiasts today (Thursday) completed a 300-mile walk in aid of the threatened Turtle Dove.
Jonny Rankin and friends, Andrew Goodrick and Robert Yaxley, have spent the last three years raising funds for 'Operation Turtle Dove', a project launched by conservation charities to save the European turtle dove, a bird that breeds in the UK.
On March 29, the trio left RSPB nature reserve Lakenheath Fen in Norfolk on their 13-day, journey called Dove Step.
Dove Step was the brainchild of Mr Rankin, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, but grew up in County Durham.
Their arrival at RSPB Saltholme, on Teesside, was greeted with a well earned drink of specially brewed Dove Step beer, courtesy of BlackBar brewery.
"Growing up in the North-East there was one site locally where we could see turtle doves and I still remember the first one I saw when out bird-watching with my father," said Mr Rankin. "It was such a striking bird and so exciting to see it left an indelible mark.
"When I learnt of Operation Turtle Dove and the very real possibility that we could see a UK extinction of turtle doves in my lifetime I wanted to do everything I could to support it."
Turtle dove numbers have fallen dramatically since the 1970s with just nine birds now for every 100 that there were 40 years ago. Once widespread across much of England and Wales, the species has been lost from many areas and are now primarily restricted to areas of East Anglia and southern England.
To donate to the appeal visit www.dovestep.wordpress.com or www.justgiving.com/DoveStep