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Surrey

Heathalnd
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata ©Lee Dingain Website

Birding Surrey

Surrey is a county in the South East England and is one of the home counties. It shares borders with Kent to the east, East Sussex to the southeast, West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west and southwest, and Berkshire to the northwest and Greater London to the north-east. The county town is Guildford. With a resident population of 1.1 million, Surrey is the most densely populated county in the South East region. Surrey is divided in two by the chalk ridge of the North Downs, running east-west. The ridge is pierced by Surrey's principal rivers, the Wey and the Mole, which are tributaries of the Thames, the river which formed the northern border of the county before modern local government reorganisations. To the north of the Downs the land is mostly flat, forming part of the basin of the Thames.

Much of Surrey is in the Metropolitan Green Belt and contains a good deal of mature woodland. Among its many notable beauty spots are Box Hill, Leith Hill, Frensham Ponds, Newlands Corner and Puttenham & Crooksbury Commons. It is the most wooded county in England, with over 22% coverage compared to a national average of under 12% and as such is one of the few counties not to include new woodlands in their strategic plans. Box Hill has the oldest untouched area of natural woodland in the UK, one of the oldest in Europe. Surrey also contains England's principal concentration of lowland heath, on sandy soils in the west of the county.

Agriculture not being intensive, there are many commons and access lands, together with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways including the North Downs Way. Accordingly, Surrey provides much in the way of rural leisure activities, with a very large horse population. The highest elevation in Surrey is Leith Hill near Dorking c. 968 feet above sea level and is the second highest point in southeastern England.

Surrey's landscape is dominated in the north by the ever-encroaching borders of London so much so that 20% of the old vice county of Surrey is now Suburbia. Yet amongst so much concrete many top birding spots can still be found mostly connected with the Water Industry - notably the reservoirs that straddle both sides of the Thames and the sewage farms such as Beddington. Away from city life the chalk North Downs are usually wooded so woodland species may be found, however the increased numbers of day trippers from London have, amongst other factors, brought about the decline of species such as Nightingale.

Along the western edge of the county are the many areas of heathland, most notably in the Frensham and Thursley area. Thursley also includes a large area of natural bog. Surrey, being a land-locked county, lacks the large variety of species that may be found in more coastal counties. This brings its own challenges and rewards, for the finding of passage migrants such as Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail can be as exciting as finding Red-backed Shrike or Wryneck at better coastal sites.

Top Sites

Barn Elms

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WWT London Wetland Centre is a stunning nature haven in the heart of the city with beautiful walkways set amongst lakes, ponds, meadows and reedbeds. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife including over 180 species of birds, water voles, amphibians, bats, grass snakes, slow worms, butterflies and moths. A spectacular 105 acre reserve.

Beddington Sewage Farm

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There is no public access to this site, but part of it (including the lake) can be viewed from the new public footpath from Beddington Park to Mitcham Common which passes along the western side of the sewage farm. It has hosted a number of national rarities, eg. Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Citrine Wagtail, Red-throated Pipits and Rustic Bunting.

Bookham Common

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This woodland is the best site in Surrey for Nightingale with up to 12 singing males present in recent years. Recent winters have turned up Hawfinches (probably from East Horsley)

Devils Punch Bowl

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This huge depression is covered by woods and is one of the best places in the county to catch up with Wood Warbler. Most other woodland species can be found here without too much effort, unless you have descended to the bottom and your car is at the top! Firecrest have often been found here as well.

East Horsley

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The woods at East Horsley, of which the Woodland Trust owns one, are very good for the elusive Hawfinches. Early mornings are by far the best time to see these birds which will also drink from pools on the gravel drives of the large houses bordering the woods.

Epsom Common

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excellent site for Mandarin

Frensham Ponds

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The ponds are about a mile apart and are separated by the Kings ridge and area of heath land (see below). The ponds hold good numbers of waterfowl in the winter including Smew. Also at this time a Bittern might be found at either pond, in fact dusk may be the best time to see one as it changes pond and flies over the ridge.

Mercers Lake

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wildfowl and gulls

Old Woking Sewage Farm

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for waders etc

PaperCourt GPs

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wildfowl

Staines Reservoirs

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The reservoir is split into two basins imaginatively called North and South. Access is from either end of the dividing causeway parking is easier at the east end with a small car park having been built. During winter large numbers of wildfowl can be seen and more often than not a Peregrine spends the winter in the area, check the many Pylons. Amongst the wintering species Surrey rarities such as Great Northern Diver, and Long-tailed Duck may be found. Both Red-necked and Black - necked Grebes should be present for some of the winter. A large gull roost also occurs at Staines as well as most of the other Thames Reservoirs. In summer especially after a storm Black Terns can be found, also Little Gulls may also be present. On top of this the basins are periodically drained exposing large areas of mud. These will then act as a magnet to waders, which will appear in large numbers, by Surrey standards. During such times rarer waders such as Wilson`s phalarope have been found.

Stoke Water Meadows

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Holds Water Rail, Snipe and Jack Snipe during winter though all are difficult to see and has breeding Common Terns. In 1997 Stoke held Surrey's first Red-rumped Swallow, which stayed for a week.

Thorpe Water Park

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A good site for winter wildfowl and Surrey's most regular haunt for Smew since a flock has become established here. Park in layby on A320 near entrance. Pit on east side of road best in cold weather. Public footpath heads north-west through complex to Thorpe village.

Thursley Common

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The heath land makes Thursley one of the most important site in the County with several waders breeding here and nowhere else in the county. The pine island in the centre of the bog is usually a good look out point for Hobby in the spring and summer with Redstart singing above. The heathland also holds Dartford Warbler (although numbers were much reduced by the hard winters of 2009-2010), Tree Pipit and Woodlark, at night Nightjar can be heard chirring at surprisingly long distances. Ockley Common is part of the Thursley complex. Nearby Hankley, or Frensham commons, hold similar birds with the exception of the waders. During the winter it is not uncommon for one of these to hold one or two Great Grey Shrikes. In the spring of 1999 Thursley also had a Woodchat Shrike for several days.

Walton Reservoirs

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The complex of reservoirs do not hold such large quantities of birds as Staines but they do turn up interesting records such as Leach's Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Pied-billed Grebe and Squacco Heron. A permit from Thames Water is needed before access can be gained, however after gravel extraction has finished a new nature reserve will be created on the site of the northern reservoirs. Knight and Bessborough Reservoirs to the south of the A3050 will still require a permit. Walton reservoirs was situated between the two largest roosts of Ring-necked Parakeet in Britain. During the winter months up to 7000 parakeets have roosted in poplars close to Esher Rugby Club off Molesey Road.

Contributor

Shaun Peters

Additional Material

recbirds@yahoo.co.uk

Gary Honey

County Recorder

Eric Soden

Ceres, Moushill Lane, Milford, Surrey GU8 5BQ

01483 429799

ericsoden@aol.co.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 333

Useful Reading

Birds Around Surrey

Written & published by Derek Belsey 2002

ISBN: 0953073432

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Surrey

Jeffery J Wheatley - Surrey Bird Club - 2007

ISBN: 0901963089

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to watch birds in Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Don Taylor, Jeffery Wheatley & Paul James - Christopher Helm 2009 (5th Revised Edition)

ISBN: 1408105853

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Forums & Mailing Lists

Birding News from Holmethorpe Sand Pits

News & Sightings

Daily reports from Holmethorpe Sand Pits, near Redhill, Surrey (TQ2951)

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods

Sightings & News

Sightings from Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, Surrey.

Going Birding - Surrey Bird News

Sightings

Going Birding is a free, real-time, county-based bird news service. News can be submitted by any registered user (registration is free) and is instantly available to anybody via the web, mobile phones, email and Twitter. Each county has one or more administrators (usually the County Recorder or members of the county bird club). If you'd like a bird news website for your county please get in touch.

Surrey Birding

Mailing Group

Facebook page

SurreyBirdClubNews

News & Sightings

Bird sightings and news from the Surrey Bird Club. Join the club at surreybirdclub.org.uk/membership.html

SurreyBirders

Forum, News etc.

Surrey Birders web site (launched October 2006) has been created as a free resource for the bird watchers of Surrey. It provides a facility for members to submit sightings, track their own and other members sightings and to perform various searches of the sightings database. Surrey Birders is aimed at bird watchers of all skills and experience. Our members range from the complete beginner through to those with many years experience and knowledge.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Very close to the Thames Basin heaths holding the Dartford Warblers, Woodlarks and Nightjars which have European protection. Hobby, Firecrest and Tree Pipits are also found locally. We have local reservoirs and gravel pits with many species and easy access to the south coast. I edit a county bird report and am a member of the Berkshire and Surrey clubs giving me a great deal of local information on birds and sites. I charge nothing but many people buy me lunch and pay the petrol and sometimes make a small donation to a local club in return for a good day out…

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Organisations

RSPB Dorking & District Local Group

Website

The Group covers a large area of mid-Surrey but centered on Dorking, Leatherhead and The Bookhams. During the winter indoor meetings are held once a month. Bird-watching walks and related activities are organised at the weekends and mid-week: a coach is usually arranged for the more remote destinations. Most of the walks are fairly easy…

RSPB East Surrey Local Group

Website

The group's aim is to introduce new members to the RSPB and raise money to help our local nature reserves. We have a monthly indoor meeting on the second Wednesday of each month except August. We have monthly field trips by car and coach. We give talks to schools, youth groups and community groups by request…

RSPB Epsom & Ewell Local Group

Webpage

This is the website of the Epsom & Ewell Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.

RSPB Guildford Local Group

Webpage

We cover South-West Surrey from Chobham, Woking, Guildford and Godalming through to Cranleigh and Haslemere and have about 600 members. We aim to interest and inform our members about the RSPB. We hold indoor meetings with illustrated talks twice a month from September to April and we have an extensive programme of over 50 walks and outings with occasional "weekends" away…

RSPB North West Surrey Local Group

Webpage

This is the website of the North West Surrey Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife…

Surbiton & District Bird Watching Society

Website

Our Society has around 130 members and partakes in many activities including field outings and residential weekends. There are also several groups active in supporting the British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB in their various censuses. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at Surbiton Library, at 8pm, except for August (no meeting) – all are welcome whether you are interested in joining or are just visiting the area.

Surrey Wildlife Trust

Website

Surrey Wildlife Trust was formed in 1959. We work to protect wildlife for the future as one of 47 independent trusts and more than 100 urban wildlife groups across the country. Our strength comes from a combination of working nationally plus our local expertise…

Surrey Bird Club

Website

The club was founded in 1957 and became a registered charity in 1967. The Surrey Bird Club is a society of people interested in wild birds in the county of Surrey, England. Members include professional ornithologists, amateurs of every stature, bird watchers and others who care about the future of birdlife in the county. It is affiliated to the British Trust for Ornithology and a special invitation to join is extended to Surrey members of the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Reserves

Beddington Farmlands

Information

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Beddington Farmlands, which incorporates Beddington Sewage Farm and Viridor waste management, is situated in Greater London / Surrey. Longitude: 00.11w- Latitude: 51.21N- Grid ref: TQ29766581. The site covers about 400 acres of mixed habitats. From two lakes, reed beds, scrubland, sludge beds, shallow pools, meadowland and eventually a flooded grassland area.

LNR Epsom Common

Website

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In 1935 we purchased the Common and it remains in our ownership today. In the 1950s the Common was designated as a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI) and in 2001 was also designated a local nature reserve. We manage the Common to maintain and improve nature conservation whilst allowing public access. Further information about the Common and our grazing project can be found in the links below.

NNR Thursley Common

Information

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Thursley Common is an area of some 350 hectares of heathland in the southwest of Surrey, England. It is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a national nature reserve.

NT Frensham Little Pond

Information

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Our pond and the surrounding grounds have become a haven for wildlife. We're home to a variety of water birds, tuneful birds and some rarer birds as well as reptiles and certain mammals.

Staines Reservoir

Information

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Officially called Staines Reservoir (in the singular), this site is actually two reservoirs (North Basin and South Basin) separated by a narrow causeway. They lie just north of Staines and Ashford and south-west of Heathrow Airport. The site has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, particularly for its wintering wildfowl. One of the best sites in London for rarities, Staines has attracted an impressive list of species over the years including waders such as Baird's Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, two Wilson's Phalaropes and three Lesser Yellowlegs. However, seeing any wader here usually requires one of the basins to be drained, which seems to happen every few years. Migrant waders can be found on the water's edge when both basins are full but there is usually very little variety.

Swan Sanctuary

Website

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Welcome to the home page of The Swan Sanctuary's new web site. The Swan Sanctuary is a charity dedicated to the care and treatment of swans and waterfowl with an established reputation, not only within the British Isles but worldwide…

WWT London Wetland Centre

Webpage

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Twenty-five minutes from Westminster in the heart of London, the Wetland Centre is unique in being the first created wetland habitat (105 acres) to have been developed in any capital city throughout the world…

Blogs

Billy Dykes - Bill's Birding

BLOG

I have set up this blog to share with you my birding (and other wildlife) activities around Surrey and beyond…

David K Campbell - David Campbell's Notebook

BLOG

I am a 23-year-old Surrey/London birder, freelance ornithological consultant and writer.

Exploring Wildlife

BLOG

A natural-history blog from Surrey, UK. The blog has been running for 3 years, and is my place to share my wild experiences and stories, accompanied with photos and videos…

Frank Boxell - Wildlife Watchith With FAB

Blog

From an early age I loved exploring the heath, woods and farmland close to my birth place on the Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire borders. While I have always taken an interest in wildlife the ‘birding bug’ didn't really kick off until the late 80's during holidays to the North Norfolk coast and whenever possible I continue to make visits, often in the winter months, to enjoy its spectacular wader and wildfowl encounters.

Neil Randon - Randon's Ramblings

BLOG

Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you…

Peter Alfrey - Non-Stop Birding

BLOG

This is my birding and nature blog/profile. I am based at Beddington Farmlands which is being developed into a nature reserve within the Wandle Valley Regional Park in South London. I live and work from Beddington Farmlands and operate Little Oak, an environmental management company that looks after green spaces in our local area.

Steve Gale - North Downs & Beyond

BLOG

Whilst looking at an OS map of northern Surrey, it struck me how all of my regular natural history patches were joined together by a geographical umbilical chord, running south-west to north-east over a distance of maybe 15 miles. Within this wiggling line can be found chalk downland, heathland, deciduous woodland, farmland, sand pits, rivers, sewage farm and urban sprawl. I like to think of it as one big - 'uber' - patch.

Other Links

Mayford Bluetits

Website

In February 2001 we installed our first bluetit nest box )in a garden in Mayfield, Surrey) containing a video camera. Last year our diary gave details of the progress that our bluetits made with their nesting activities. We watched them nest building, egg laying, hatching and finally fledging. These details can be found by clicking on the 2001 link alongside. A new year sees a second nest box and this year we intend to monitor nesting progress in both. Hopefully, by summer time we shall have two broods of chicks to show you and details can be reached in the 2002 Diary alongside…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Ken Noble - Wildlife-galleries

Gallery

Wildlife-galleries is primarily based on European species of Birds, Mammals, Insects, Reptiles, Amphibians and Plants. Contained within the pages of this web site are hundreds of wildlife and nature photographs and images…

Photographer - Lee Dingain - Lee Dingain's Photostream

Gallery

Several of my friends have mentioned that they've never seen the photos I take on my travels, so in response I've decided to set up a Flickr account. So far I've only created a few photo sets (all of South America), with the Galapagos being the most complete set, but I'll be adding many more photos over the next few days and weeks…