Oxford Island National Nature Reserve

Oxford Island National Nature Reserve is a peninsula created by the successive lowering of Lough Neagh. Bounded on three sides by water it is a haven for wildlife and a popular visitor attraction on the southern shores of Lough Neagh. It is home to a vast range of birds, plants and animals throughout the year.

Large numbers of wintering wildfowl can be viewed from the five bird hides that are spread around the shore. The reserve offers excellent opportunities for people to get close to nature and explore a diverse range of habitats across 270 acres with 8km of walks and nature trails accessible in all seasons.

As well as the bird watching hides there are also picnic areas, play areas, a paddling pool and Kinnego Marina and camp site. The Reserve has won awards for its exhibitions, disabled access and habitat development. Much of the Reserve was planted with trees about 40 years ago and there are pleasant walks through the woods and old shoreline scrub which abound in song birds.

Interspersed with the woods are flower rich meadows and pastures which are grazed by old Irish breeds of cattle, namely the Moile and Dexter cows.Take a dander through the woodlands at Oxford Island and you may see Blue Tits, Siskins, Redpolls, Chaffinches, Long-Tailed Tits, Bullfinches, Willow Warblers, Tree Creepers, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Wrens.

The walks along the shoreline and scenes across the open water often afford views of Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Golden Eye in winter, Coot, Black Headed Gull, Little Grebe and Pochard. Birds of Prey on the reserve include Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and the occasional Hen Harrier has also been spotted hunting over the meadows.

The reserve is also famed for its butterflies including populations of Orange-Tip, Specked Wood, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. Dragonflies and Damselflies are also common on the reserve, including the Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Butterfly and the Four Spotted Chaser Dragonfly.

From April to May the woodland floor is densely covered with Bluebells, Lesser Celandine and Lords and Ladies. Fungi are also common as are a variety of mammal species including rabbits, foxes, grey squirrels, field mice, stoats, hedgehogs and badgers.

The Conservation Service is based at Oxford Island and is available for information and guidance. They undertake butterfly, bird and other surveys and advise on the management of the Reserve. Sight maps and interpretive panels illustrate the wildlife on the Reserve and leaflets available from the Discovery Centre and downloadable podcasts provide guided walks and trails. The service also offers and extensive education programme which caters for students from primary to university level and covers issues relating to the environment of Lough Neagh and Oxford Island.