ONE of life's simplest but most rewarding pleasures is provided by the sight and sound of birds in our gardens; the greyest and gloomiest of days can be brightened by visits from our feathered friends.

The writer Kathi Hutton said: "I don't feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them." This is a sentiment shared by many Scots, as evidenced by the fact that nearly 40,000 of us took part in this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over January 25 and 26.

The survey revealed some interesting changes. One success story is the goldfinch, whose bright red face and yellow wing patch has become an ever more common sight, rising from 15th most frequent visitor 10 years ago to seventh in 2014.

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Its success may be symptomatic of our changing habits, as more and more of us supplement bread and food scraps with nyger seed and sunflower hearts. And while house sparrows continued to occupy the top spot and chaffinches and blackbirds held their own, there is concern over the starling, whose numbers have fallen by 40% since 1995. It is to be hoped that the data gathered in the Big Garden Birdwatch will help us solve this and other puzzles.