Spring has definitely arrived in my neck of the woods, and as well as checking up on my local ponds for frogs spawning in early March, I’ve also been looking for opportunities to find a British reptile or two. In April, I paid a couple of visits to a nature reserve in Cumbria, a peatbog area where you need to use a boardwalk to get around.
When I visited at the beginning of April, good sunshine was intermittent and the weather was fairly chilly. It was late morning when I suddenly spotted two common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) basking on a south-facing patch of moss at the bottom of a tree. Walking up and down the boardwalk, I had five more sightings of lizards within half an hour.
In the past few days, Britain has enjoyed some especially warm weather, and today seemed like a good day to get up early and head back down to Cumbria, in the hope of catching some reptiles basking in the sunshine. My luck was definitely in: five minutes after I started looking, I was thrilled to spot a zigzag at the bottom of a tree. It was an animal I especially wanted to see: an adder!
The European adder (Vipera berus) is a special snake. It’s the only venomous snake native to Britain (though it only bites if disturbed); it’s one of the most widespread terrestrial snakes, occurring from northwestern Europe to Russia and the Pacific coast; and it can even live within the Arctic Circle, further north than any other snake. This particular adder was recognisable as a male by the contrast between the black zigzag and pale background colouration; I watched him for a little while as he slithered from one basking spot to another.
Walking away from the adder, I heard a rustle and looked down to see a common lizard on the boardwalk, close to my foot. It was the first of five common lizards I saw that morning, either scurrying through the grass, or warming themselves up on the boardwalk. All in all, a successful day!