Springwatch on The Suffolk Coast - lambs frisking about in the spring sunshine, a distant Bittern boom and the songful chirrup of birds in the budding trees…
But, at RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve the team are shaking things up a bit this year, or should we say ‘snaking’ things up!
Visitor Experience Officer, Ian Barthorpe, tells us that Minsmere's Adders have proved extremely popular over the last few years, so they decided to open a dedicated Adder trail this spring to make it easier to watch these amazing snakes without disturbing them. This also meant training many of their guides giving them more confidence to find and talk about Adders.
Spring is the perfect time of year to see Adders as the males are searching out females and fighting for the right to mate with them. The Adder Trail at Minsmere is near a Hibernaculum (where Adders hibernate over winter) which is why it’s a good place to see them, especially on warm sunny days where, for a few short weeks, they forget their shyness and are very visible.
Volunteer Guide, Davene Everett says that early morning is a good time to catch them basking, curled up on a pile of leaves - Use your binoculars to scan the undergrowth systematically, concentrate on the sunny spots and you’ll soon spot one. They can flatten their body to get maximum exposure to the sun’s rays and in the earlier months, it isn’t uncommon to see a number of males curled up together. Once they’ve warmed up, they’ll be off searching for food.
Surprisingly the Adders biggest enemy is the pheasant, which seems to go out of its way to attack this snake if it sees one. Adders are not large snakes, 2-3 feet is the maximum you’ll find (females are generally larger than the males) and can live for 30 years (if they can avoid predation).
The question we all want to ask is… are they dangerous? Well we’re told they won’t attack a human except in defence, but a bite will be extremely painful and the venom can be fatal, so it’s important to not antagonise them. If a snake rears up and hisses at you, you’re far too close and should back away. Photographers should use telephoto lenses and no matter what the temptation, don’t try and take close up shots with a phone, you’ll be putting yourself in danger - Stay a respectful distance and enjoy watching these fascinating creatures in safety!
Don’t forget to catch the Springwatch shows on TV from 30th May – 16th June.
Picture courtesy of Steve Everett.