Oxford Island has a mixture of semi-natural and man-made habitats. The mosaic of woodland, scrub, meadow and wetland is traversed by a number of pleasant walks and supports a wide variety of flora (Plants), fauna (Animals) and other living things (Fungus, Lichen etc.).
Habitats At Oxford Island
Much of the woodland at Oxford Island was planted in the 1960s and 1970s. It is primarily deciduous and consists of a number of native and non-native species. There are also areas of semi-natural wet woodland and mixed-ash woodland and regenerating alder, willow, blackthorn and hawthorn scrub, a lot of which has become quite mature. The woodland and scrub is important for nesting and feeding birds and also ground flora such as Lords and Ladies, bluebell and primrose.
At Oxford Island reed beds are found primarily in Kinnego Bay. They are shallow wetlands where the water table is at or above ground level for most of the year. The reed beds are dominated by stands of common reed and occur as a transitional zone along the Lough-shore. Several species of waterfowl and warblers nest in the reeds.
There are a number of areas of open grassland at Oxford Island and these are of varying importance for biodiversity. They include the species-rich Kinnego and West Shore meadows and the Hill Field in the centre of the peninsula.
The Kinnego Meadow and West Shore Meadow are wet grasslands rich in a number of wildflower species including fleabane, sneezewort and ragged robin. Kinnego Meadow is grazed, while scrub encroachment at the west shore is subject to periodic control. The Closet Meadow north of the river is also wet grassland but is less species-rich, being dominated by rush species.
The Hill Field is a species-rich dry grassland cut for hay. Plants typical of traditional agricultural meadows, such as knapweed and yellow rattle, are in abundance. There are a number of important smaller dry grassland areas around the reserve that are also maintained by hay-cutting.
Prior to being designated as a nature reserve Oxford Island was agricultural land and some heavily fertilized areas have developed into rank grassland. However, small patches of this habitat have been grazed by rabbits, creating a more species-rich sward. The amenity grasslands around the Discovery Centre are of little conservation value.
Found behind the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, the garden was developed to demonstrate wildlife-friendly gardening to school groups and the general public. The garden has a species-rich hedgerow of native trees and a wildlife pond fringed with willow, insect friendly bushes such as buddleia are planted in the borders and Habitat piles provide shelter for invertebrates.