“Think you have it rough! Adder near death experience yesterday” (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader, Louise Hawkins)

Here in the UK, we could consider ourselves really rather lucky. Unlike so many other countries, we don’t really have to fear any deadly creatures menacingly taunting us from the shadows with questionable identification, dangling precariously from sheds and outhouses, or lurking under the kitchen sink – or worse still, scuttling out from more vulnerable spots. Imagine an 8-foot-long poisonous snouted cobra peering back at you on a bathroom visit? A rhumba of 24 poisonous rattle snakes coiled in a corner of your basement? A nip from a black widow to foil your day’s plans? No thank you, I think I’ll pass.

While we don’t have to worry about any lethal animals, insects or arachnids that hide in undergrowth when we fancy heading out for an afternoon walk or for a swim in our waters, the UK is home to one lone venomous snake. This is a title held by the reclusive adder – the handsome star of our photo of the week. Adder bites are an uncommon occurrence, and though they may be painful, a bite from an adder is almost never fatal. During a visit to RSPB Haweswater in the Lake District, Louise Hawkins and her daughter Matilda stumbled across this silhouette sliding through the grass. A close call for the snake as it was almost tripped over, giving both parties a shock. 

Louise shot this during the best time to spot adders, from March to October when they slither out of hibernation for the warmer months. Relatively small and stocky snakes, they hide under the cover of woodland, heathland and moorland when out of hibernation. They feed on a diet of small mammals, small reptiles and ground-nesting birds. Adders have a small stature and only grow to 60-80cm in length, and their grey colour with zig-zag markings along their backs makes them challenging to identify in dense thicket, as Louise discovered. They do have distinctive red eyes, which this reptile is showing off for the camera. Differences between sexes can be told by a slight difference in colour, with males silvery and females are lighter, or red/brown. Females internally incubate and are known to have up to 20 live young.  

Watch out for them in spring, when males ‘dance’ to compete to mate and fend off competition. If you want to see adders, the only areas you won’t be able to find them are on islands in the UK - the Scottish islands, Channel Islands, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isles of Scilly.

Looking to attract reptiles into your garden? Read here for some tips for building sunbeds.

Got any fabulous wildlife photos you think we would love? Email them to the Nature’s Home team at natureshome@rspb.org.uk 

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