2022 Survey highlights from the Oxfordshire LWS Project

This year we carried out surveys of 40 existing and proposed Local Wildlife Sites in Oxfordshire. Over 4200 species records have been added to the database with some still to enter. The survey season was challenging in terms of high temperatures and identification made more difficult as vegetation crisped up with the lack of rain well before the end of the usual summer season.

Thanks to our volunteers this year’s surveys also included rare plant recording in Chilterns woodlands, invertebrate recording at Duke’s Lock Pond and Fungus Survey of Oxfordshire helped by joining us to record parkland fungi. Many thanks to all involved.

We covered a wide range of habitats including woodlands (lowland mixed deciduous woodland, lowland beech and yew woodland, and wet woodland), wetlands (eutrophic standing water, coastal and floodplain grazing marsh, lowland fen and reedbed), and grasslands (lowland calcareous grassland, lowland meadow, and lowland wood pasture and parkland).

Bicester wetland reserve is an important site for birds including overwintering species and those that require wet grassland habitat. This year’s weather has created tricky conditions for wildlife but did mean we got access to some areas of the site that would normally be underwater.

Parts of the site did retain standing water and wetland plants recorded include common reed, branched bur-reed, brooklime, common marsh bedstraw, floating sweet-grass, purple loosestrife, reed canary-grass, reed sweet-grass, reedmace, water mint and common spike-rush.  We also recorded an adult brown hairstreak investigating the dried-out pond bed.

Another highlight was surveying the large area of lowland meadow at a site near Holton in South Oxfordshire. The species rich grassland here has a good range of indicators for unimproved conditions such as betony, sneezewort, common knapweed, meadowsweet, lady’s bedstraw, meadow vetchling, common bird’s-foot trefoil, ragged-robin, great burnet and pepper saxifrage.

Kingstone Coombes is grassland on a north-facing slope with two small blocks of beech woodland. It is on chalk and includes areas of lowland calcareous grassland. The sward on flatter parts of the site generally has a limited range of wildflowers and some sections of the bank are dominated by tor-grass but it also includes shorter, species rich grassland on the steeper slopes. Richer areas include many calcareous grassland forbs such as clustered bellflower, squinancywort, common restharrow, fairy flax, wild thyme, carline thistle, common centaury, common rockrose, cowslip, small scabious, yellow-wort, salad burnet, mouse-ear hawkweed and pyramidal orchid. It was very heartening to see an improvement in the condition of the grassland, with more widespread species-rich areas, compared to the last time we surveyed in 2013.

Posted: December 1, 2022