Probably the best opportunity to see the elusive adder (Vipera berus) is in March, when the males emerge from hibernation and are found basking in groups. Then in April, resplendent after its spring skin-shedding, the adder will engage with rival males in bouts of combat. Two or more snakes will rear up and test their strength by pushing and wrestling each other down. Entwined together, they roll across the ground at lightning speed. The weaker snake is driven off and denied access to the female.
This photograph of adders in combat dance was taken in London, and features in the gallery of the London Essex and Hertfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Trustwebsite (LEHART), which has extensive information on Britain’s herpetofauna.
If you’re interested in photographing adders, or just observing them, there is much to learn from this account by experienced nature photographer Geoff Simpson:
The actual bite was so quick and painless I hardly gave it second thought until some two hours later, when I gradually became very ill as the poison injected into my finger began to slowly take effect. Dizziness, vomiting and a painful and badly swollen hand and two distinct, if somewhat, small puncture marks were not my idea of fun. Over confidence and carelessness in obtaining a series of close-up portraits, had resulted in the large female adder striking with lightning speed and accuracy. In the future, I’ll show respect toward adders-it’s a simple case of “once bitten, twice shy”.