It's that time of year when the lads are getting ready for the lasses - at least in the world of Adders. Males come out a few weeks before the females (it'll probably be another 3-4 weeks before they appear from their slumber) as they need to spend plenty of time basking in the sun to increase fertility. Adders are ectothermic - they need the sun's energy to get their metabolism working (we're endothermic - we eat food to burn as fuel & generate our own heat).
They're quite easy to spot at this time, they seldom venture far from their hibernaculum and are loyal to favourite basking spots, even if it means sharing with their mates
Indeed, so important is it to get those rays, they will pancake themselves completely to maximise the surface area presented to the sun
Which makes them look massive, though they're only around 2ft long (females get a few inches longer). Luckily, they cannot hear us chatting away nearby (they're deaf), although they will feel you stamping your feet and can see movement with those signature red eyes. Their most acute sense is that of taste/smell (never too sure how it should be described!). That flickering tongue picks up scent particles and transfers them to a Jacobson's organ in the roof of the mouth. As the two forks pick up different amounts of scent particles, they can tell which direction the scent comes from. In other words, they can taste in stereo.... Strange but fascinating...
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2013 photos & vids here
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Lot to learn
A little update with some different pics. This chap is a true, melanistic Black Adder. Not just a BBC series, you see melanism in the population in clusters - it's hereditary, so is passed on through the generations. Some people will never have seen one, but we're lucky to come across these handsome fellas quite regularly (you can get male and female Black Adders but have to rely on the Adder's tail shape to sex them). They seem to warm up faster than the normal Adders (logically) but are less well camouflaged. The pros and cons seem to balance out and they certainly make for an interesting talking point
He's looking a little bit dull at the moment (he'll be sloughing soon I expect), but normally you can make out the black zig-zag on the black background if you get the light just right.
Finally, just to show how difficult Adders can sometimes be to spot, here's a little challenge for you. Not the hardest to find, but some gentle amusement should you be stuck indoors!
In reply to Nigel O:
Nigel O said:Never seen a black one - I wonder if people confuse them with escaped Black Mambas or something equally unlikely!!
This one's tendency to relax right by the path has certainly caught out a few people - he looks like something a dog's left behind until he moves! More than one visitor has gone back to reception more than a little worried about what exactly is out there on the reserve....
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