A brief overview of wildlife on Aston’s Eyot, The Kidneys and Long Meadow.
As the habitats range from grazed water-meadow (Long Meadow) through mown grassland (The Kidneys) to tall herbs, bramble patches, scrub and woodland (Aston’s Eyot), with waterways added, there is quite a range of species of animal and plant found on the site. The woodlands are dominated by willow along the Cherwell, cherry nearer the main path, apple in the ‘orchard’, with ash and poplar in the plantation; elsewhere there are patches of trees rather than woodland, and there is a largish blackthorn thicket roughly in the middle. Alder is scattered along the river & ditch banks, and there are some very large hybrid poplars along the Shire Lake Ditch that pre-date the 1980s plantation.The open areas are currently dominated by nettle and creeping thistle, with some large patches of invasive Japanese knotweed. There is lots of bramble and elder. Where not shaded by trees, the river and ditch banks have sweet-grass, canary grass and in places invasive Himalayan balsam. There used to be fairly extensive areas of grass kept short by rabbits, but this has given way to the extending nettles – a consequence partly of the disturbance from bottle digging in the 1980s and the large number of dogs being walked, and foxes, keeping rabbit numbers down.
This is not an area of rare and exciting species, but an excellent area for common woodland and wood-edge species of the sort not found in urban areas with only tidy parks and gardens. Breeding birds include sparrowhawk, stock dove, green woodpecker, blackcap, garden warbler, whitethroat and long-tailed tit, while kites, buzzards and kingfishers are regularly seen. In winter redwings and fieldfares join local thrushes on the berries, while siskins and goldfinches feed on the alder seeds, with occasional redpolls, and water rails lurk in the ditch. Roe deer, muntjac and foxes are frequent visitors, and in some years large numbers of frogs and toads breed in the ditches. Butterflies are numerous, and the now rare Brown Hairstreak has recently been found.