Here come the birds hunting for food in our garden. In winter, there are often birds from other countries, even colder than ours.

But today, with the sudden cold snap, it is our home-grown mistle thrush that has arrived in our orchard.

The mistle thrush is bigger than our demure song thrush and more confident, too. You could easily think that it is a bird of prey as it swoops and glides to the top of our apple tree. Its spots are big and bold, and its call is like a cackle of a witch.

It nested in our woodland one year and no other bird was allowed near. It patrolled up and down the paths and gave its strident call, if we went near. The untidy nest was in the fork of a willow tree and could easily be seen but no one ever disturbed it for fear of being dive-bombed by the defending parents.

Did you do the Big Garden Birdwatch this year? I wonder if you recorded the mistle thrush. Its numbers have been declining in recent years but ours are holding on tight here.

We had a good apple crop, the weather must have been just right, and we had far too many to store, so we left a lot as windfalls. The birds love them and started to devour them, until the mistle thrush arrived. I watched as he settled himself on a log and surveyed the apples. He seemed to assume they were all his, and he was on guard, and would not let any other birds near. If they approached, he flew at them and then settled back on his surveying log.

Now, you would think, because of its name, that the mistle thrush would eat mistletoe berries, but ours do not. I germinated a mistletoe on our old apple tree, and it has lots of plump white berries, the mistle thrushes ignore them. They eat holly berries and mountain ash berries and, of course, our apples. The mystery is – why won’t they eat the mistletoe berries, when they are named after them?