Church bell welcomes godwits

Blenheim Nativity Church vicar Bob Barnes, left, and Wairau Lagoon guide Will Parsons, ring the church bell to welcome ...
Derek Flynn

Blenheim Nativity Church vicar Bob Barnes, left, and Wairau Lagoon guide Will Parsons, ring the church bell to welcome the godwits to Marlborough.

A Blenheim church is hoping to start an annual event by welcoming a migrating bird to Marlborough.

The Blenheim Nativity Church bell pealed at midday on Sunday to signal the arrival of the godwits.

The long-billed birds flew to Marlborough on a 12,000-kilometre nonstop trip from the Arctic circle, and would spend the remainder of spring and the summer at Wairau Lagoon, Marlborough.

The Blenheim Nativity Church rung the church bell to signal the arrival of the godwits, in what may be the first of an ...
Derek Flynn

The Blenheim Nativity Church rung the church bell to signal the arrival of the godwits, in what may be the first of an annual event.

Driftwood Eco-Tours guide Will Parsons spotted a flock of 120 godwits at Wairau Lagoon last week.

Nativity Church Blenheim vicar Bob Barnes said ringing church bells on a Sunday to announce celebrations was an old English tradition, and was practised in several New Zealand churches to signal the godwits' arrival.

"It's more to celebrate than to mark their actual arrival date ... it's a way to celebrate creation."

The birds migrated to the same areas across the country every year during their 20 to 30 year lifespan, Parsons said.

"We're very excited. It's an ambition we've had for a long time, to do something like this. It's a way to tell the people of Blenheim that we have a wildlife that many don't know about."

The godwits will stay at Wairau Lagoon until they leave for the Arctic in March. Godwits that did not weigh enough would not survive the trip, and would stay in New Zealand, or 'overwinter', until the next trip back to the Arctic.

One bird had 'overwintered' at Wairau Lagoon, Parsons said.

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"It was too young to make the journey back. Maybe next year."

 - The Marlborough Express

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