Amorous Adders

The adders have slithered onto this week’s blog and rather taken it over. This is their time- that short window when skin-shedding and mating take place- so it’s only fitting to give them a bit extra space this week. They all shed in a very co-ordinated fashion, with most males shedding on either Sunday or Monday this week. Many thanks to Morag for this wonderful shot of a male in the process of undressing.

Male adder shedding skin

Male adder shedding skin

The white arrow in the foreground is the skin; in the background is it's former owner

The white arrow in the foreground is the skin; in the background is it’s former owner

Shed adder skin

Shed adder skin

Once they’ve shed, the males look amazing- they gleam like freshly enamelled jewels. It’s such a contrast from their old, drab skin.

male adder

male adder

Another newly shed male

Another newly shed male

Newly shed adder

Newly shed adder

Another newly shed male

Another newly shed male

And, after shedding, the males have only one thing on their minds- females! The males vary hugely in colour but the females are usually brown or olivey-brown. They are usually much larger than their suitors and the difference in size can be quite striking.

female adder

female adder

Testing the air- a snake's tongue is surprisingly long

Testing the air, searching for a female- a snake’s tongue is surprisingly long

So can the colour difference in the males. This brown male looks very different from the blue-ish coloured males nearby.

Adders warming up first thing

Adders warming up first thing

More amorous adders- but this brown male (on the outside of the coil) is a very different colour to the blue males

More amorous adders- but this brown male (on the outside of the coil) is a very different colour to the blue males

Adder seduction can be a fairly prolonged process. The male has to get the female in the mood first, or she won’t mate with him. He does this by slithering over and around her and flicking his tongue over her scales. Once they mate, they may stay locked together for up to half an hour. And, given the barbed nature of male adder genitals, he isn’t going anywhere during that process! Check out a clip of our adders getting amorous at https://www.facebook.com/125227577507847/videos/vb.125227577507847/1182723675091560/?type=2&theater

Amorous adders- the male is trying to get the female in the mood by moving over her

Amorous adders- the male is trying to get the female in the mood by moving over her

The adder action really kicks off if two males discover the same female. But the female above wasn’t short of suitors- at one point she had five males all interested in her. A large blue male scared off the others fairly quickly…until another similar sized male arrived…

There may be trouble ahead- a second male arrives on the scene

There may be trouble ahead- a second male arrives on the scene

…and a fight ensued. Adders don’t bite opponents- they’d both bite and both die, so where’s the sense in that? Instead they wrestle in the spectacular “dance of the adders”.

This blue male is ready for a fight and rears threateningly off the ground

This blue male is ready for a fight and rears threateningly off the ground

Dancing adders

Dancing adders

The greener male, head on the right, lost the fight and shot off

The greener male, head on the right, lost the fight and shot off into the bracken

This clip should hopefully show about 30 seconds of the “dance”…a strenuous wrestling match between the two males. https://www.facebook.com/Scotlands-National-Nature-Reserves-125227577507847/?ref=bookmarks

Away from the adders, spring is still proceeding slowly. It’s been warmer this week but still bitterly cold at nights- minus two on Wednesday night. But the days have been warm and this has opened up the spring flowers.

Blaeberry flowers

Blaeberry flowers

We’ve also had some more migrants return. Willow warbler and tree pipit are back, with the willow warblers starting to become more obvious in the morning chorus.

 

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

A nice sighting over the reserve this week was a particularly large crow. Crows come in more shapes and sizes than you’d think. There are at least 7 species of crow in the UK (8 if you count hooded) and of these, you’ll see carrion crow, jackdaw, rook and magpie pretty regularly. But one of the crow of remoter places treated us to a flyover on Tuesday, when a raven joined the jackdaws, wheeling and tumbling in the wind. His deep “kronk-kronk” call was a huge contrast to their excited chacking.

Raven flying over reserve

Raven flying over reserve

Other birds are nest building. While sitting in the office, I thought it’d come on rain- water was splashing past the window. But it wasn’t rain- it was a blackbird, raking wet mud and leaves out of the gutter to build her nest. Keep an eye out for birds with great gobfuls of moss or feathers right now- they’re setting up home to raise the next generation!

Who's splashing in the gutters?

Who’s splashing in the gutters?

What's she up to?

What’s she up to?

Ah -gathering gobfuls of nesting material!

Ah -gathering gobfuls of nesting material!

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