Friday, 25 March 2016

Adders at last...

Almost two years to the day since I saw my last Common Adder Vipera berus, I finally got lucky today. They have become incredibly scarce and patchy in their distribution over the last two decades and while they are still fairly common in some of their historical strongholds (Mendip Hills, Forest-of-Dean, Quantock Hills etc.), elsewhere numbers have dropped dramatically due to a number of reasons. One of the main problems is fragmentation of habitat due to intensive farming methods and continued urban spread. Increase in recreational use of their key habitats by walkers, cyclists and horse riders as well as heathland fires, all add to the pressures. Adders are also still persecuted by misinformed individuals, despite being protected by law.

So seeing not one but two today in a very sunny Dorset with my brother Duncan (Twitter: @duncanharris5), was all the more exciting. The true value of the Bridge camera was also highlighted again today as we watched both individuals from 10ft away without the need to stop them basking. The first individual below is a recently emerged male and will become much greyer after its first slough. They won't feed until they have mated, usually in May or sometimes as late as June. Females emerge from hibernation a little later and should start appearing in the next few weeks.

Adder Vipera berus: Duncan Harris
Adder Vipera berus: Duncan Harris
Vipera berus, recently emerged male
flattening its body in the sun: R. Harris
Vipera berus, crop of the above. Note the black (not brown)
zig-zag markings and strongly contrasting
supralabials along the mouth-line. Grey colour
also showing on the head - all indications
that this is a male rather than a female : R. Harris
Vipera berus number two - a smaller male: R.Harris
We also found a single Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis, basking in the undergrowth.

Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis: R. Harris
Wood Ants Formica rufa out in force today too!
Earlier in the week I had my first Slow Worm Anguis fragilis of the year on the Blackdown Hills:

Slow Worm Anguis fragilis: R. Harris

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