Mistletoe has been associated with Christmas ever since the Druids cut it down with a golden sickle for use in their sacred rites.

Traditionally, every time a man kisses a girl under the mistletoe he is carrying on a magic ritual that has continued for thousands of years.

Each kiss means a berry has to be picked until there are none left.

Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on host trees, especially hawthorn lime and willow.

The white berries are eaten by birds, mainly mistle thrushes which afterwards wipe the sticky seeds from their beaks onto a bough where the seeds take root.

Mistletoe grows in abundance around Hampton Court, Bushy Park and especially in Claremont gardens in Surrey.

I'm in Claremont on a cold cloudy afternoon in early December watching two mistle thrushes flying from tree to tree gorging on the whitish-grey berries.

After a while the thrushes are joined by two more pairs uttering their loud rattling calls.

Then for a brief moment one bird begins to sing but his effort is far less melodious than a song thrush.

I mentioned a few week ago that I had not seen and blackbirds in my area for several weeks.

However, while peering up at the thrushes, suddenly a blackbird literally erupts out of a bush by me and uttering his loud alarm call, brushes past my face and speeds into the distance!

Clearly a case of a close encounter of the bird kind! The photo shows a mistle thrush among the mistletoe in Bushy Park.