Friday, 18 March 2011

Adder (Vipera berus) – Norfolk

This afternoon I spent the most wonderful couple of hours searching for Adders in an area of North Norfolk known as the Holt Lowes. The area – a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – is a stronghold for Adders, the habitat a perfect mix of heath, gorse, some bog and sand. On setting out, I wasn't too hopeful; the day was cool and the sun was struggling to show behind a blanket of light grey cloud. Soon, however, it broke through and conditions became perfect, albeit that it was still only mid-March and these cold-blooded reptiles need a lot of warmth to get going. This is going to sound weird or just plain obvious, but I find the key to spotting wildlife is to know what you're looking for. By that I mean having a fair idea of shape, colour, posture, probable choice of location and, of course, size. The other truesim is that once you've seen something once and the brain stores the image, it's a lot easier from that point onwards. I have walked this area a hundred times and – not consciously looking for snakes – had never seen one. This time, I told myself not to look for a line (the chances of seeing a moving snake were, I suspected, slim) but a ring or circle (the logic being that my best chance would be to find an Adder basking in the first ray's of the sun in an effort to generate enough warmth to start hunting. Though venomous, Adders are not aggressive and are also less inclined to disappear to disappear into the undergrowth unless threatened; it is possible safely to get quite close without disturbing them. And so it proved – within 20 minutes, 10 metres ahead of me I did indeed pick out a circle of darkness against the lighter mix of long grasses and ferns and was able to take these shots. I went on to find four more: three alive and one dead, with two puncture wounds a few inches below the head.

Both Canon 1DS MkII, 1/2500 sec, f/4, 200mm at ISO 640




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