Aston’s Eyot is a mixture of woodland, scrub, and grassland that is home to a wide range of animals and plants. As you enjoy the reserve, take a look around and see how many different species you can spot.
Until the end of the 19th century, the land was a low-lying riverside water meadow, used mainly for hay and grazing. From Edwardian times until the late 1940s, you might be surprised to know that the land was used as Oxford’s rubbish tip! Since then it has developed into a mosaic of habitats with woodland (both plantation & spontaneous), scrub, and open areas of nettle with some grassland. For over a decade, The Friends of Aston’s Eyot has taken practical action to manage the land, introducing paths and ensuring a mix of open areas, scrub and woodland that has wide local appeal.
Find out more about the various birds you can expect to see around and over the eyot.
Butterflies and moths
Discover the fluttering friends you can see in the reserve.
Reptiles, amphibians and mammals
Read a list of vertebrates found on the eyot.
View more imfortmation about the fauna found the eyot and the various habitats.
What can you find on the eyot?
As the habitats range from grazed water-meadow (Long Meadow) through rough grassland and hay meadow (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 eyot is an excellent area for common woodland and wood-edge species not often found in urban areas. Breeding birds include sparrowhawk, stock dove, green woodpecker, blackcap, garden warbler, whitethroat and long-tailed tit. 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, badgers and foxes are resident, 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.
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 and 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. Some large patches of invasive Japanese knotweed have been largely eradicated and replaced by flower-rich grassland, and additional meadow areas have been created from nettle beds. There is lots of bramble and elder.
Where not shaded by trees, the river and ditch banks have sweet-grass and canary grass. Formerly invasive Himalayan balsam has been controlled by removing plants before they can seed. There used to be fairly extensive areas of grass kept short by rabbits, but this has given way to the extending nettles, rabbit numbers having declined – a consequence partly of the disturbance from bottle digging in the 1980s, the large number of dogs being walked, foxes and badgers.
What to look for?
We’ve put together a series of guides designed around each month on the eyot. You can download the monthly guides to help you identify the flora and fauna you may come across on the eyot.
We have camera traps set up on Aston’s Eyot. From badgers, to curious muntjar deer, our cameras always throw up something interesting. We’ve put the best clips on a dedicated page for you to see.