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.
Once they’ve shed, the males look amazing- they gleam like freshly enamelled jewels. It’s such a contrast from their old, drab skin.
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.
So can the colour difference in the males. This brown male looks very different from the blue-ish coloured males nearby.
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
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…
…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 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.
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.
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.
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!