It is a pleasant change to report that Robin Page has written something in the Daily Telegraph with which I can whole-heartedly agree.
He writes in praise of Natural England's (and the Zoological Society's of London and Oxford University's) work on adders - our only venomous snake. Robin discloses a personal nervousness about snakes which is touchingly open of him.
Adders, or vipers, are apparently declining in numbers with only 100,000 estimated to be left. Habitat fragmentation and intensive agriculture are leading to the isolation of some populations and that may lead, in turn, to inbreeding. Their problems, though different in detail, exemplify the needs of many species which were summarised in the Lawton report published last year. That report called for more, bigger, better managed and more joined up protected areas and if we had more, bigger, better managed and more joined up heathland habitat pockets then the population level of the adder would add up to a bigger number. Let's see what the long-awaited, much-heralded and vitally important Natural Environment White Paper says on the subject of habitat re-creation and restoration at a landscape scale.
A former RSPB boss, the late Ian Prestt, studied adders in his youth. I remember talking to him about his work, which he spoke about with relish.
Robin Page points out that the presence of adders indicates a healthy countryside because this predator relies on the presence of a variety of prey such as young birds, voles, frogs and lizards to survive. If the adder is in trouble then it indicates that the rest of nature is too. How true. I look forward to further articles from Robin in praise of the sparrowhawk and the white-tailed eagle.
I been fortunate to have many close encouters with adders over the years. One memorable moment many years ago was when I took out a party of 14 year olds on a D of E mountain bike ride. The lead boy exclaimed & threw his feet in to the air, off his pedals as both his wheels went over an adder which slithered off the track into a pool of water a swam away. On another occaison, one that had "frozen" whilst I walked very close by, only seeing it as I had almost completely passed it, rose its front third off the ground like a cobra & hissed at me when it realised I'd spotted it. Last year I saw a buzzard carrying an adder, but its no doubt something they've done from time to time over thousands of years without having any any effect on the snakes population. I once watched a black one; you could still see the pattern on its skin much the same way you can make out the markings on a black morph leopard; wonderful.
Nyati there has been plenty of dialogue with representives of the criminals you try to defend, but they can't stop themselves from killing raptors, and they never will. Fortunately for them they don't operate in Spain where yet again the authorities have demonstrated they will not tolerate those who do not accept the law of the land & 3 persons involved it targeting birds of prey with poisoned baits have been convicted & sentenced to prison for 1 year & 4 months plus a 24,300 Euro fine ( see Raptor Politic's web site). Only when the same justice is served on the UK's criminals against raptors, will there be a decline in the barbaric methods used by these crooks.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654