Where to Watch Birds in Surrey and Sussex


  • Where to Watch Birds in Surrey and Sussex by Matt Phelps and Ed Stubbs (Bloomsbury, 2024).
  • 320 pages, images and maps.
  • ISBN: 9781399404235. Pbk, £27.99.
  • Buy at BirdGuides bookshop from £24.99

The Where to Watch guides have a strong and loyal following that dates back to the 1980s. In fact, the original guide for Surrey, Sussex and Kent first appeared in 1987, and the fifth edition of that book was published in 2009. Importantly, this is a completely new book by different authors, but with that said, it is hard not to make comparisons with the original title. In my view, that book was overly complicated with 19 regional subdivisions to cover both counties. This new book divides the region into nine zones – a welcome simplification.

In total, 96 sites are dealt with in detail (35 for Surrey and 61 for Sussex) and in addition there are brief summaries for 109 further sites (59 and 50 respectively) where the location was not felt to warrant a detailed account. Most of the original title's key locations are included, although a few have been demoted. New birding areas in Surrey include Tice's Meadow and Canons Farm (Banstead), while others such as Thorpe Water Park are upgraded to receive more detailed treatment. Some are downgraded, such as Farnham Heath and Hankley Common.

In Sussex, the locations are perhaps more predictable because many are the classic coastal sites that have always been focal points of county birding, but Medmerry RSPB has been added and inland sites such as Knepp Castle and Kingley Vale are included. West Dean Woods and Wakehurst Place receive less coverage than before. There are many maps to help you to understand the layout of the sites, and the inclusion of postcodes in addition to grid references is helpful.

There is a checklist of the 419 species recorded in the area covered. A very useful section is entitled 'Thirty species to see in Surrey and Sussex', which directs the reader to the appropriate site that will give the best chances to connect with the bird. An eye-opener for many will be that European Honey Buzzard is included and some of the relevant site descriptions give six-figure grid references to the best viewpoints. This open approach is to be welcomed, and reflects a greater realisation that there is nothing to be lost by encouraging people to look for these birds responsibly. Alongside that, it is worth noting that in the 2009 book, Eurasian Goshawk was not even mentioned for Surrey and Sussex, but now gets no fewer than 25 mentions.

If you are undecided about whether to buy this book, I think I have just given you one of the best reasons!


Written by: Keith Betton

Keith Betton is Chairman of the Hampshire Ornithological Society, Hampshire County Recorder and an avid world birder. His first two books (co-authored with Mark Avery) had jacket designs by Robert Gillmor.