Until a couple of days ago, the only adders I had seen were in an enclosure at the fantastic British Wildlife Centre near Lingfield, in Surrey. Last spring I was lucky enough to get to the BWC just as the two males were “dancing” to see who was the dominant male. It was amazing to watch – and photograph, and I had thought that was the closest I would come to seeing our native snake.
These are a couple of shots from last year, taken at the British Wildlife Centre, where the snakes are within a glass enclosure.
So … that was my experience until this week!
On Tuesday I went out walking at lunchtime with a good friend of mine, in the spring sunshine. We walked along Banstead Common … and saw about 8 adders, all out of their winter hideaways, warming up in the spring midday sun. The first adder we saw turned out to be THREE all sunbathing whilst entwined. They quickly moved undercover as we approached, so after that we went a little more slowly … and quietly!
We walked around a relatively small area of the heath, and continued to see the adders all curled up enjoying the spring sunshine
It was fascinating watching their behaviour. They would be asleep as we approached, but as we got to within about 10 feet they would wake up and watch our approach, wait for a few seconds, then quickly move undercover – deciding sunbathing wasn’t worth it if we were hanging around! So we had to be fairly quick with our photos!
It was fun watching them sunbathe, and at the moment, as they are fresh out from their winter sleep, they are quite slow to move. It was weird hearing the crackling of the dry grass, and realising that was the sound of the adder moving out of sight. We didn’t get closer than about 10 feet from the snakes, and I wouldn’t want to get any closer – although likely the adders would have moved way before I got any closer anyway! They are fascinating to watch and I’d like to see them again soon!
As with all wildlife watching, there is a responsibility on the part of the photographer .. so the safety bit is that adders are venomous (the venom from a bite goes into the bloodstream as opposed to being poisonous where you would ingest poison), but it has been many years since an adder killed a human. However the same cannot be said for dogs, who are definitely at risk at this time of year. The key lessons are to be aware of where you walk – find out if it is an adder’s paradise, and take precautions. Walk early in the morning before the sun warms up, so that the adders will most likely be hidden away still. If that’s not possible, or if you are walking somewhere new, be aware of your dogs behaviour and if you think (s)he has been bitten, carry him/her to your car, and get to the vet as quickly as you can. If you get bitten yourself, you will need to visit A&E as quickly as you can!