Wildlife man shares his wonder for species of snake
Wildlife enthusiast Bob Smith runs Nature Nuts, a Perthshire basedbusiness offering wildlife and nature tours in the area to local residents and visitors.
His specialist tours focus on beavers, adders, pine martens and black grouse but usually include sightings of a whole range of other species such as hen harriers, owls, ospreys and golden eagles, ptarmigan, kingfishers, deer and geese and even, occasionally, wildcat and capercaillies.
Although restrictions imposed as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic mean that he is currently unable to run his tours, Bob’s passion for the outdoors is something he is still keen to share with others and he has shared a number of his photos of adders.
He said: “Vipera berus, or common viper, or common adder is the UK’s only venomous snake.
“Now, I’m no great fan of snakes, they scare the bejesus out of me, but these animals are just stunning when witnessed at first-hand, in fact – and regardless of my ‘fear’ – taking my clients on a tour to see these animals is one of my favourite excursions.
“If given the respect due to them, sitting quietly beside one is such an amazing experience.
“Although venomous, they usually prefer to disappear than ‘strike’.
“In fact, most bites are usually caused by people standing on them – the other bites are from people picking them up!”
A relatively small snake with a maximum length in the UK of 86cm, the adder is a top predator – dining on small amphibians, eggs, insects, voles, shrews and mice.
Adders hibernate from around September or October through to February but if the winters are mild, you may still encounter them. Usually the best time to see them is between March and July.
Bob continued: “These animals are usually found on heathland, the edge of woodlands and some suitable moorland.
“The females will breed every two or three years with a brood of between two to 20 offspring.
“These are all live births as opposed to some other snakes that produce eggs.
“The adder has a red eye and is the only UK reptile to have a vertically split pupil.
“Sexing the adders is often easier than in other snakes. The females usually have a duller colour to them compared to the male.
“The male and the female generally have that characteristic zig-zag pattern but the males’ black zig-zags tend to be more prominent.
“However, if the animal has not ‘sloughed’ – that is, shed its skin – identification can sometimes be wrong. If you see an adder with ‘milky’ looking eyes, it is about to slough.
“The tail may also be an indicator of gender – if the tail is slowly tapered, this tends to be a male, if it looks as if a bit has been chopped off then stuck on again, this tends to be a female.
“However it’s yet another amazing creature that is sadly in decline due to habitat loss, heather burning and predation by non-native birds such as pheasants.
“If you do come across one, don’t freak out.
“Just stop, take a step back and enjoy the spectacle, they are a truly beautiful species.”
To see more of Bob’s photos, or to find out more about his wildlife tours, see online at www.nature-nuts. org
■ Pics: Bob Smith, Nature Nuts Photography.