Saturday, 8 October 2011

My Wildlife on TV!

Great to see they featured the female adder I found for BBC Autumnwatch on last night's programme.
Also the hornets and wild boar, although all credit goes to them for actually finding the wild boars. I just put them in the right location.

A massive thank you to all three presenters for standing up for the wild boars in the UK, a creature very close to my heart.



Saturday, 1 October 2011

BBC Autumnwatch are Here!

Today I spent the morning with a film crew from BBC Autumnwatch. The main subject was supposed to be wild boar and although I found them a fantastic location (filming tonight), I couldn't resist taking them to one of my adder hot-spots!
It wasn't long before I found a lovely "big" female for them to film and although she was quite shy, hopefully they captured enough decent footage to be included in the programme.
I also found them some hornets building a nest! This was something I really didn't expect to find as this species dies off during the winter months, so this is not really the best time to start building a nest. We are seeing some unusually hot weather at the moment and this is probably the reason for this unusual activity.

Will be on TV next Friday, so get tuned in!


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Snake Found in Bedroom!

I was contacted by the Cheltenham Echo yesterday to identify a snake that a local resident had found in his home. At first I thought I was going to see a pet corn snake or a young python, but I was shocked to see that it was an adder. Britain's only venomous snake!

Click link below for full article.

Snake Article


Friday, 2 September 2011

Cobra in the Forest!

The grass snake (Natrix natrix) may not be venomous like the adder (Vipera berus), but they do posses some other unique ways of fending off a possible threat.

1. If you startle a grass snake and it feels like it has no means of a quick escape, it will sometimes rear up like a cobra. The female grass snake in the photograph below did just that and at around 120cm in length, with approx 1/3 of her body raised in the air, she was quite intimidating.

2. If a grass snake is attacked, or if it feels like its life is in danger, it will sometimes feign death. Basically it will squirm around and come to rest upside down with its mouth gaping and tongue hanging out.
I do not have any photographs of this as I have never put a grass snake in this situation, where it feels threatened to this degree. I cringe when I see photographs on the internet of grass snakes doing this, as I know that they have been, or are enduring immense stress!

3. To accompany the death throws and if disturbed, the grass snake will sometimes squirt a "foul" smelling liquid from its anal gland. If this doesn't sound bad enough, just imagine what rotten fish and anal secretions must smell like and you are almost there. If you get this on your clothes or skin, it is very hard to wash away and the smell makes you feel sick!

A grass snake of 120cm pretending to be a cobra. I was lying on the ground for this shot and her head was higher than mine. Awesome encounter with a truly beautiful snake.
I still see her today on occasions, 4 years later and she looks a lot bigger.


Thursday, 4 August 2011


You may remember my post earlier this year when I, along with a friend carried some heavy corrugated tin, on our heads to a location in the Forest of Dean.
This tin was to give the adders some artificial refuge and help with the decline in their numbers in this area.
After giving the reptiles time to get used to the change in their habitat and explore it, I went back for the first time yesterday evening. Although the tin was nearly covered by bracken I managed to take a look underneath and success as the first piece had two slow worms underneath. This was great to see as adders share the same basking spots as the slow worm, so I moved on to the next piece hoping to see one taking advantage of it!
Nothing under the second piece except a large ant nest, so I re-positioned it in a different location.
I dug my way in through the bracken to the third piece and lifted it up. There she was, a lovely female adder, coiled up right in the centre.
I was over the moon and this just shows what a little hard work and determination can achieve!

No pics of the adder I'm afraid, for a couple of reasons.
1. I didn't want to disturb her, so the tin was carefully placed back down straight away.
2. It would have been hard taking a photograph one handed!

A massive thank you to my friend Mark Dando for his help and an equal amount of credit is due to him for helping a species in decline, in the Forest of Dean!


Friday, 1 July 2011

An Hour With the Adders!

Had a good day with the adders this morning. Found 5 in total and all of them were females ranging from a tiny juvenile to a fully grown lady!
I was bitten by some nasties and got bramble scars all over my legs, but it was my own fault for lying in them while wearing shorts!

The tiny one. Around 9 inches long and a feisty girl. She wasn't too bothered and was quite inquisitive.

And here is mum basking just around the corner.

Same female except this time uncoiled and stretched out!

Another female under a gorse bush. I don't push to get too close to the larger adders as they are more timid than the little ones and it would only disturb them. Anyway, it's nice to see them in their natural habitat.


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Male Adder!

Not a great pic I know, but this male adder was in a gorse bush (they usually are) and it was tricky to get a decent angle.
Unless I can get down to their level, I don't get too close because this just disturbs them and I would rather walk away with a crappy shot than disturb this reptile just for the sake of a photograph!

Will hopefully be getting out tomorrow weather permitting!


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Nine Year Old Girl Bitten by Adder in New Forest!

It happens quite a lot, but when it happens to a young child it is a worrying time. The adder's bite is not that serious, unless you get a allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, or Anaphylaxis and then it can be very serious, even fatal if untreated!
Unfortunately, nine year old Tylar Butcher was recently bitten while holidaying with her family in the New Forest and suffered an allergic reaction, which required hospital treatment. Thankfully she is making an excellent recovery and has even shown an interest in the adder. This is great news as it will have a very positive impact on the way certain people think and react towards this snake.

The adder has been persecuted for years, for just being able to defend itself and as humans we see it as a threat, so we kill it. Thankfully we are not all like this and some of us want to protect them. I hope Tylar will grow up wanting to help protect them too!
Read Tylar's STORY HERE


Friday, 29 April 2011

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - To be Scrapped!

If you care for our Wildlife, Countryside and environment then I implore you to sign the petition to help stop "our Government" from scrapping The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Its hard to believe that once again "our Government" is trying to take steps to damage our fragile environment. I can't imagine living in a civilised Country, which has no protection for its wildlife. This Act is the highest form of protection our wildlife has and by removing it, it will open the door to death and destruction!

For instance, we have wildlife in decline throughout the country, like the dormouse, water vole, great crested newt and the adder, to name just a few. We / they need this Act for their ongoing protection and also for the thousands of people who spend countless hours and work very hard protecting and creating endangered habitats.
Have they lost sight of what really matters? Do they not care that one day we will all be living in concrete jungles, choking on the smog filled environment we have created? It is time once again to open their eyes and show them that we do care and we will not bow down to their idiotic idealists!

They tried to sell off our forests and failed due to public condemnation and we should feel proud that we stopped them in their tracks (for now). But once again, I ask you all to stand up and be counted as this issue is just as serious.

Please click the link below and sign the petition.


Also, send a email to your local MP, asking him to clarify what proposals have been made and that you are strongly against them.

Write to Them

Thanks for your support!


Monday, 25 April 2011

Adder Survey Project & Some Ladies!

It was heavy and the only way of carrying it without making 3 trips back to the car was to balance it on my head! Thankfully I had a friend, willing to suffer a bruised scalp to help!
I selected a spot, which has been a hot spot for adders over the years, but like most locations it has seen a sharp decline in their numbers over the last few years. Hopefully this will give them a safe place to bask and help their numbers grow. One benefit of using artificial refuge like corrugated tin is that it absorbs and holds the heat, so the snakes will be able to bask for longer, especially if it is raining.
Another bonus is that the snakes may be able to put off hibernation for a few weeks and ever emerge from hibernation earlier if they know they have a safe, warm location.

It may take a while for the snakes to get used to it and feel safe using it, but Rome wasn't built in a day, so fingers crossed.
Sorry about the close up shots, but I only had the big lens with me - had enough to carry on my head!

However, I did bump into this girl - a juvenile female adder at a different location and although she was a little grumpy, she did pose for a couple of snaps.

I moved around to get a nice back-lit image of her, before I left her to bask in peace!

The old saying "It's the one you don't see that gets ya!" and I just spotted her in time, but if you go walking in their garden, you need eyes in the back of your head!
Again, when I left her she was happily taking in the morning sun.


Friday, 22 April 2011

Recent Article

Here is a link to a recent article I have written for the on-line magazine "Landscape Juice", regarding the adder.

Click Here to read the article.


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Male Adder!

Here is a nice male adder, which has recently sloughed (shed his skin). He was in a gorse bush and it was quite tough to get close, but I managed it without disturbing him. This is where a long lens comes in handy, even if it is very hard hand holding with gorse spines sticking in every part of your body!
The trick is to creep up on them, very slowly and very quietly! Ignore the spiders running over your face, don't jump if you are bitten by something, or spiked by a spine or bramble and don't make eye contact as they will always win!

Piece of cake - Not!


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Worrying Times!

As you have most probably heard on the radio or seen on the TV, our native adder is in trouble!
National statistics have shown that adder numbers are dropping throughout the country and the Forest of Dean is one area for concern.
I have been surveying for NARRS from day one (2007) and I have also been monitoring my snake locations for more than 20 years.
During one visit to one of my hot spots back in April 2005 I found 18 snakes in approx 1 hour. I visited he same area at the same time this year and found just one grass snake and no adders! Very disturbing!
However, I did find these two females at a spot, which has not been fruitful over the years and hopefully there will be a few fella's around soon.

No close up's today as they were tucked under a small tree and gorse bush and if I had pushed to get close it would have disturbed them.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

First Adder - 2011

Well, this is my fist adder of 2011, taken a couple of weeks ago now. I have been wanting to get out and capture some better images, but with some other projects I have running at the moment and with work commitments, I just haven't had the time!

This is a male, not fully grown yet and he was heated up when I found him, so it was tough to get close.
Hopefully I can get out tomorrow and find a nice female.


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Official - Snakes in Decline!

From finding my first snake (an adder) at the age of 8, I have always found them fascinating. As I got older this turned to a passion and I can honestly say that our native snakes mean the world to me.
I have been visiting some of my areas for the last 20+ years and although I didn't realise it at the time, I was actually surveying them. As I found more and more areas I started to make notes as to what species, sex and maturity of the snakes, which were there.
One thing I can tell you is that there is not one of my areas which has the same or more snakes today. They all have less!
The biggest decline was in 2010, yep just last year at one of my sites where my best counting day was 18 snakes in a 150 metres stretch, 5 years ago. Last year I counted just 6!
This is a drop of two thirds and it doesn't take a mathematician to work out that if this decline carries on, we could lose our snakes altogether!

My areas have not seen human encroachment, nor have they been disturbed. In fact they are virtually the same as the first time I visited them.
So what is it that is causing our snakes to either die or move away from their typical basking spots?
We have seen some pretty harsh winters over the last few years and this could be the reason for losing a few snakes, but the decline we are seeing is more widespread throughout the country, so I am not convinced that this is the cause.

The female adder and grass snake will not breed in consecutive years and this can give false survey readings unless you take an average over 4 - 6 years. NARRS, National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme have been surveying since 2007 and I have supplied them with data from day one. Their findings are accurate and this evidence confirms that like me, a lot of surveyors throughout the UK are seeing decline in their snake populations.
It is not just the adder and grass snake either.........

Please click below for full story from the BBC.

BBC - Adder in Decline


Friday, 4 March 2011

Fingers Crossed!

Woop - woop! Bring on the spring and warm weather. I've been waiting very patiantly for this month and this weekend is the first one I have had free to be able to devote a lot of time to my snake habitats.
I did my usual gardening over the winter, so it will be good to see if the snakes have taken advantage of the basking spots I have created for them.
I will be looking out for the snakes I see year after year and also the new arrivals, which are hard to spot as they are so tiny. There is one snake that I really want to see and that is the melanistic adder, which I filmed and photographed last year.

I will update with any pics if I am lucky, but in the meantime here is the main one I will be looking out for.


Monday, 3 January 2011

The Waiting Game!

Approximately just 8 weeks to go before our native snakes emerge from hibernation and I can't wait!
It is usually the male adders, which emerge first with the female adders and grass snakes a couple of weeks later. Its amazing to see them basking after their lengthy ordeal of having to go without food for up to 20 weeks and this just shows how resilient and hardy this species is.
I always record my first sighting and I try to get a photograph. This is not always possible as I do not approach them at this time of year, due to the fact that they require food and warmth to build up their energy to survive. If they are disturbed during this time, when it is still very cold during the evening and night, it could have devastating consequences for them.

This is a pic of my first male adder sighting from 2010. Out quite early compared to previous years!

Shooting Date/Time 01/03/2010 11:17:53

And here is another from 2007.

Shooting Date/Time 17/03/2007 14:29:09

Only after they have eaten and after the temperatures have risen to approximately +10oC will I approach them to get detailed shots.

The shot below is from 2010. It is a male adder and he was quite relaxed with my presence, as I was at his level.
As I was moving very calmly, so not to disturb him, it gave me the opportunity to move to within a few feet of him as he was basking on the edge of a bracken hedge, using the bracken as support so he could reach the best spot for the sun's rays.

Shooting Date/Time 15/03/2010 13:50:45

Roll on March 2011!