THEY begin gathering before dawn. It will be hours yet until the food arrives, but patience is not a virtue. A cacophony of noise steadily builds and by the time I stumble bleary-eyed to the kitchen and peer out into the garden, more than a dozen pairs of beady eyes stare back. The birds are hungry.

To be fair, my husband and I have made a rod for our own backs with this bird-feeding lark. It started with throwing out a few household scraps and has since escalated into fat balls, suet-filled coconut halves, peanuts, sunflower hearts, seeds and mealworms to name but a few.

We often leave the shops with more provisions for the birds than groceries for ourselves, schlepping home sacks of feed and spending an inordinate amount of time replenishing hanging feeders and lofty tables. Should supplies start to run low, I'm a dab hand at rustling up a homemade bird cake from an old Blue Peter recipe.

Nor are we alone in such endeavours. It is estimated between £200million and £300million is spent on bird-feeding products each year in the UK, enough to feed the equivalent of 196 million birds – more than the combined total population of many common garden species.

The good news, according to a new study, is that these sumptuous all-you-can-eat buffet feasts we're dishing up – and by we, I mean bird lovers across the country – are supporting a rising number and greater diversity of species in Britain's urban areas.

Research from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) revealed the types of birds that are regular visitors to our gardens has significantly changed over the past 40 years. In the early 1970s, half of all birds using feeders belonged to two species: the house sparrow and starling.

Fewer than one in five people spotted a goldfinch or wood pigeon on their feeders in 1973, says the BTO, but that number has soared to more than 80 per cent apiece.

Sightings of long-tailed tits have risen to a reported 77 per cent around feeders with other species such as great spotted woodpeckers, magpies and sparrowhawks having significantly increased their visits over the same period thanks to the variety of tasty morsels on offer.

Which certainly puts a whole new spin on the adage of the early bird catching the worm. Or in this case the lavish gourmet smorgasbord.

Cheat sheet

HAVE we reached peak athleisure? There has been a creeping scourge of clothing designed for workouts and other athletic activities being sported – pardon the pun – in wide-ranging alternative settings from the workplace to social occasions.

Recent figures showed "athleisure" is a £3bn market in the UK with leggings, cropped sports bras and trainers now viewed by many as just as acceptable to be worn while propping up the bar as they are pounding the treadmill.

To pull off the trend, many covet a honed physique. Yet, you can forget the traditional "no pain, no gain" mantra championed by fitness guru Jane Fonda and, come to think of it, the German hard rock band Scorpions.

According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, there has been a surge in people seeking liposuction, with experts pointing the finger at a desire to look good in activewear.

The number of liposuction procedures – where fat is removed from the stomach, hips, thighs or buttocks – rose by 12 per cent among women with 2,286 operations performed in the last year, making it the fastest growing area of cosmetic surgery.

I may be going out on a limb here, but surely if there was a bit more ath[leticism] and a little less leisure going on, then vanity surgery wouldn't be necessary?

Smoke and mirrors

THE late Whitney Houston is to tour as a 3D hologram. Let it be stated for the record that I am not on board with this idea which sounds like a bleak episode of the TV show Black Mirror where the souls – and lucrative back catalogues – of dead musicians are mined for money.

Who in their right mind is going to shell out hard-earned cash to watch what is essentially a glossier version of Pepper's ghost, an illusion technique dating back to 1862?

This isn't the first time a deceased crooner has been resurrected on stage via the magic of technology. A Roy Orbison hologram event toured the US and Europe last year; it is due to return in October which will see the Pretty Woman singer paired with a holographic Buddy Holly.

Plans for a 2019 Amy Winehouse tour were postponed after the company running it faced "unique challenges and sensitivities" in trying to replicate the tragic star in "the most celebratory and respectful way possible".

Or in layman's terms: they are struggling to make it seem less crass.

Speaking of concerts, Prime Minister Theresa May is said to be "considering" attending a Spice Girls reunion gig, according to the sources of a tabloid newspaper.

Geri Horner, aka Ginger Spice, memorably declared Margaret Thatcher to be "the first Spice Girl, the pioneer of our ideology" during the 1990s heyday of the band. Earlier this year, Horner bestowed that same label upon Sir Winston Churchill.

Over time, one imagines, Horner will go on to describe everyone from Sir Robert Peel to Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove that way.

Horner has personally extended the offer of concert tickets to May, with the singer saying she felt sorry for the way that the beleaguered PM has been "verbally assassinated" lately, adding: "And she wears great jewellery."

Which smacks woefully of a pity invite rather than a nod of admiration, a bit like when your mum makes you ask everyone to your sixth birthday party – even the oddball classmate who repeatedly stuck pencil erasers up his or her nose.