Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Queendown Warren

I like adders (I might have mentioned this before) and although I have been working too much in March it was good to be able to get out on a couple of sunny weekends to Queendown to try and find and observe some emerging males and eventually a couple of females.

At Queendown, the KWT have been tasked with identifying exactly how many adders are there and this means identifying and keeping tabs on individuals. I think this will be no mean feat as it is hard enough to tell male from female let alone try to identify individuals throughout the year. It seems that the trick is to concentrate on the head patterns and I've supplied head images of the 2 females and 4 males that I have been lucky enough to see on my two visits this year. Males emerge first and then generally lay around and await the emergence of the females. My visit on the 7th March yielded 4 males of which 2 were together.
Adder males

I just love the contrast of the black zigzag against the pale body colour and it promises to just get better as the spring progresses and they start to shed their skin. You tend to know when this is about to happen as their eyes turn blue.

On my recent trip on March 21st I managed to find 2 females basking in the sunshine. Normally the female zigzag is browner in colour although I'm sure more knowledgeable folks out there will tell me it is not as straight forward as that.
Adder female

Can't wait to get back there when I can.


Kingsdowner said...

Fascinating stuff....um, aren't you getting a bit close John?

John Young said...

Thanks for the comment, good point and these photos are crops. The snakes welfare always comes first. I approach very slowly and have learnt a few tips on how not to spook adders. The lens I use can focus down to just over 5 feet and I wouldn't want to get any closer than that anyway. I tend to find that they fidget and whilst appearing to move away from you as if they were disturbed are actually just getting a better position in the sunlight. Patience and keeping still are often rewarded with the beautiful snake coming back to its original basking position.

Kingsdowner said...

Normally I'd be more concerned for the animal's peace of mind, but in this case I had a vision of a cobra-like strike on the unsuspecting cameraman.
Those of you with more experience with adders will presumably tell me that they are shy retiring critters though.

baggywrinkles said...

Hi John
Nice site, love the adders and the Kittiwake, will put a link on my site,
mine is www.the-birds-of-kent.blogspot.com
keep up the good work
Dave Jordan

Greenie said...

John ,
Definately not claiming to be 'more knowledgable', but as an enthusiast I must agree with your 'not straightforward' comment . I have seen 'experts' arguing over the sex of an Adder , so what chance do we have ? I was told when I started monitoring that the zig-zag of the male is much more pronounced than that of the female , but as you say , at this time of year , before sloughing , some light coloured males have a female look about them , and the males are so variable . The only ones you can be 100% with are the creamy white/black males . If you see a male and a female laying together , it makes things easier , especially with the female being larger . As to identifying individuals , I just photograph the head and send it to a 'man who can' .
You might be interested in a photo of a black Adder on the KRAG website . Click on News and scroll down a few posts . Whilst there , if you scroll down to May last year , there is an account of 'two males in combat' , up on the Greensand Ridge , my once in a lifetime encounter , that I was asked to write .
Re. Steve's/Kingsdowners comment re. striking , it is done as a last resort , as they need the venom to paralize their prey , and no venom means no food , so they prefer to just slip away .