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Godwits have landed

Godwits have landed

Re About 40 Bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica) arrived on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary yesterday afternoon, to be followed today and over the next few weeks by up to 2000 more. These join a flock of about 190 juvenile birds that had stayed on the estuary over winter.

Christchurch City Council ranger Andrew Crossland confirmed 40 godwits at the estuary this morning. “More are likely to arrive today, with ongoing arrivals through the rest of September and into October,” says Crossland. The ChristChurch Cathedral bells will be rung at midday tomorrow (Wednesday 16 September) to welcome the birds to their wintering home.

The first birds touched down some time after a monitoring count by Crossland at 12:10pm yesterday, and before a count by Jan Walker, the Canterbury Regional Representative of the Ornithological Society.

Among the party of early arrivals was a female Godwit known as "3red red/blue blue" who was banded at Christchurch on 18 December 2008. This bird was observed frequently from last December through to April when she departed with the other godwits on migration back to Alaska. The name "3red red/ blue blue" refers to the arrangement of coloured plastic bands on the bird’s legs.

The Alaska Science Centre used satellite telemetry to follow the migrations of the Bar-tailed Godwits in 2007 and 2008, confirming the godwits as the longest non-stop fliers for a land bird. The godwits take up to nine days or more flying the 11,700km ocean-route from Alaska to New Zealand every September

“The estuary is Christchurch is one of the first locations newly arriving godwits have been reported, with reports also coming in now from the harbours around Auckland and the Manawatu estuary, “ says Crossland.

During the last 25 years, the godwits have most often arrived in the third week of September, but this year’s arrival (14 September) and last year’s (7 September) have been a little earlier than usual.

Brief note about the Cathedral Bells and Ringers

The Cathedral bells were first rung on the 31st of October, 1881, the day before the Cathedral was consecrated. Since then, successive bands have kept them ringing to the present day.

New bells were installed in 1978. The peal of thirteen bells replaced the old peal of 10, and although the new bells are individually lighter than the old, the total weight is about the same, approximately 7 tons.

The bells are rung in the English style, that is, they are turned through a full circle from mouth up in one direction then swung back in the other. This style of ringing precludes us from ringing tunes, as it is impossible to strike one bell very quickly. Instead the bells are rung in a continuously changing order, hence the term change ringing.

Today the people that regularly ring range in age from the early twenties to the late seventies. In the past we have had children as young as 11 or 12, so age is no barrier to being a ringer.

English change ringing has an international organisation behind it, and happens in several countries round the world. Towers can be found in places where there was an historical association with Great Britain
- New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and there is one tower in India, but it is in a state of disrepair.

Our usual ringing times are Sundays from 9 to 10 in the morning, and
4.45 to 5.30 in the evening. We practice on Tuesday evenings from 7 till 9, and we also ring for many special occasions, both civic and religious.

We welcome public interest in the ringing, and like to encourage people to join us. You don't need to be mathematically or musically inclined and religious conviction is not a prerequisite. Contact the Cathedral, phone 366 0046, or the present ringing master, Mike Clayton, on 342 7872 for more information.


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