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Today we have had a flock of blackbirds feeding in the garden on the hawthorn berries. Where will they have come from? Normally we have just the odd pair.

Sent in by Rhona Doughty, Cheadle, Cheshire

We tend to think of our garden birds: blackbirds, robins and chaffinches for example, as being resident throughout the year. Migrant birds are swifts and swallows, here for the summer, or redwings and fieldfares who come to our relatively milder climes for the winter. In fact we are wrong. 

Our resident birds are joined by incoming blackbirds, song thrushes, starlings, even woodpigeons. They seem to know that we are less likely to be covered by a blanket of snow for long periods and our waterways will mostly remain ice-free. Let's hope they are right and their journey will have been worthwhile.

We can't really tell the difference between resident stock or those from further north. However, they are regularly in flocks, so the blackbirds feeding on the hawthorn berries in your garden, may have come from Sweden, Norway or Iceland for example. They will be very relieved, as will the resident birds, that there seems to be a bumper crop of berries this year. These will be very popular with many species and certainly provide an excellent food source for a few months. 

Blackbirds swallow small berries like this whole so can quickly strip one bush before moving on to the next. Some of these 'migrants' will enjoy our hospitality for a few days and then move elsewhere but others will remain until late winter provided that there is sufficient food for them. They also love windfall apples but usually wait until these are really soft, almost rotten, before tucking in. The blackbirds will be joined by the real winter thrushes: redwings and fieldfares, all anxious for a tasty treat.

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