For our latest collective nouns blog, I'm taking a first look at something other than birds, by turning the focus on a species that is most easily seen during March and April: the adder.

Male adders began emerging from hibernation during February, with up to five males seen basking in the sun at the base of the sand martin bank. They will spend the next few weeks preparing for the emergence of the females in early April, by which time the males will have shed, or sloughed, their skin. This means that March is a particularly good time to spot them, and our guides will often be on hand to help you to locate them.

This basking behaviour may be reason for the term a sun of adders.

(photo by Les Cater)

Alternatively, that may be a derivation of a sum of adders. This is definitely one of my favourite collective nouns, perfectly reflecting the vagaries of the English language. After all, what other word so aptly fits a group of adders.

These are the only two terms that I have found specifically for adders. However, as adders are the only UK representative of the family of snakes known as vipers (their scientific name is Vipera berus), then the terms used for a group of adders could be equally applicable for adders. One of these terms has been widely adopted: stirring up a nest of vipers is often used to refer to a creating whole lot of trouble.

A related term is a den of vipers. In both cases, the words don't really relate to the nest, or den. They could refer to the hibernaculum - the underground hole in which several adders may hibernate together, or perhaps a group of males basking together in the sun. These clusters could also be origins of the terms a knot of snakes, a tangle of snakes and a toggle of snakes.

There's one additional term that has very different origins. A generation of vipers dates back to the King James bible, when it meant people making poisonous and malicious accusations. The term was subsequently used in the title of a 1943 book by Philip Wylie, and later in an episode of Inspector Morse. This was a new term for me though, so it's presumably not one in regular use.

If you woul dlike to find out more about Minsmere's reptiles, why not book onto one of our Reptile Rambles in April.

(photo by Steve Everett)

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