Although it was back in the winter of 2010 I remember well sitting in a favourite cafe in Swanage over looking the beach. There was a bitter east wind and it had been snowing, not really the day for doing much else other than staying in doors and drinking coffee. As we looked out to sea we saw several birds flying in, followed by more, then even more. I estimate that they were coming in at around twenty a minute and as we were there an hour or so we probably saw over 1000 birds come in and that was just where we were sat. The vast majority of these birds were fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) but there were a good number of redwing and pipits too. They seemed to be coming from the South East so presumably bad weather in northern France had driven them westwards.
After that Purbeck was full of these birds and they turned up regularly in our garden and eating us out of apples! Large flocks of fieldfare and redwing are not uncommon here in most winters. Flocks of over 1,000 can be seen feeding together on the ground in fields. Fieldfare and redwing tend to keep each other company and you rarely see one without the other close by.
They breed in northern and eastern Europe, particularly Scandinavia, but when winter comes they head south in enormous numbers and it was wonderful to watch them come pouring in off the sea after what must have been an epic journey. How did they know that when they flew off over the coast in France out to sea they would find land? Did they know or was it blind faith?