Friday, 24 April 2015

"Dance of the Adders" 2015


I was watching the adders at the weekend, along with about a dozen photographers, and a visitor came up to me and asked "why is no one taking photos... what are they expecting, them to just come out and dance in front of them?" My reply... "Er, well actually... Yes!" :-)

Our adders have been a bit disappointing this year in terms of dancing. We have been spoilt with other behaviour, more mating than I have seen in the past ten years put together and one of the males shedding in the middle of the day in front of a few lucky visitors, but the dancing has been rare and in short bursts. 

Cue Tuesday... We had a photographic group in, and they came in for lunch. One of the photographers came up and casually said "oh, the adders are dancing"... What, I thought! And you are in here having lunch!.. "You saw them dance, or they are dancing?' I asked... "No, they are dancing now" was her reply... That was enough for me, I was off and sure enough they were still going at it. 



I watched for a good while, not wanting to miss it knowing how short the bursts have been this year, but it didn't take long to realise this was going to be a good afternoon. I nipped home and grabbed my cameras. 

What followed was one of my best adder dancing experiences to date. I see it every year, and it never tires at how beautiful it is, but this Tuesday, on and off, they were at it for the rest of the afternoon. Being the first time I have seen it properly this year, I just set up shop and spent the rest of the day laying in the sand with the adders!



There have been better years, yes, but I can't remember them going it it for this length of time in one go. Yes there were breaks, and occasionally one would slink off and take cover in all my equipment, but once recharged back he would go for another attempt!

Having no members of the public around allowed me to get even closer than I normally do with out getting in anyones way. And what amazed me was the sheer power and force at which these males were going at it! So much tension is coiled up when they intwine, that when they part they really do fling apart... often leading to them hitting rocks, logs or even my camera... but they don't get phased at all and just continue in their little competition. 

The sound as well! Not from them, but from their bodies rubbing against the sand... incredible. Anyway, I am digressing a bit, but being that close I managed to get some close up video on my phone. Once I have it sorted, I will share that here for you.



I managed to get some nice photos too, again I will share some more on the other blog at some point and mention it here when I do for those that want to see.

I was once asked if I put the adders off when I go in to photograph them... Simple answer, no, as many of you have probably seen over previous years. They are so engrossed in their own little worlds while dancing, that I can get quite close with out them being bothered. If they start coming towards me, I just stop photographing and stay still... this has led to them crawling over the camera in my hand, or alongside me on occasion, but they are just going about their own business.



Going back to Tuesday though... what an afternoon! For a lot of it I was just laying in there, not even using the camera, just enjoying my private viewing of one of Britain's most amazing animal behaviours. 

During one of their breaks, one of the males came over to see if I was alright, I took a quick snap above... then give him a few words of encouragement before he went off for a drink, and then back into it with the other male. 



I won't go to explaining all the ins and outs of it all here in text, but I will again post below the video I took a few years a go of them dancing with a voice over about what is happening. Then later, most likely end of next week, I'll share the new clips.




Am I obsessed with adders...No,.. well, maybe at this time of year... Oh what the heck, yes of course YES! But then they are so miss understood.

Bare with me, I know the blog gets a little adder heavy this time of year, but it is worth it.

So, will they be dancing this weekend?..

Since Tuesday, they have been a little lack lustre, only a brief spell that I am aware of on Wednesday, and nothing yesterday. But it can sometimes go on a couple of weeks, so you may get lucky. I would lean towards their being no dancing this weekend, but if you do decide to visit keep your eyes open up there just in case.



Saturday, 18 April 2015

Dancing Adders


Just a quick post this evening to let you all know that our adders were dancing today. From what I gather, they had a go for a couple of times... about 15/20 minutes each time. Unfortunatley I missed the first lot of action, as I was talking about otters, and only caught the first few minutes the second time before heading off to talk about pine martens. But I did manage to get a few snaps to share with you.



They did have a little go in the middle of the week, but it was very lack lustre... this was the real deal so fingers crossed for some more action over the coming days/weeks.

So, the big questions, will they be dancing tomorrow?...

Uh, yeah sure... but honestly, who knows. The past few years has shown us they don't always dance everyday when it all starts, but sometimes they do dance for a few days in a row. So don't come tomorrow expecting to see the "Dance of the Adders"... but if you do visit tomorrow, keep your eyes open on the adder enclosure and don't be surprised if you do get to see this stunning serpentine show.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Harvest Mice Release


All the adders have now shed, and the males are ready to dance. Fingers crossed for the coming days. I have a rather special photo for you at the bottom of the page, but it is not one for all... so if you don't want to see mating adders best not to scroll down after reading about the harvest mice!

While waiting for dancing adders, I though I would let you know we have done our first harvest mouse release of the year. They have been doing well out on the reserve, but are perhaps not spreading out as much as we had hoped. Therefore we have decided to release this years a little further on and hope that they will meet with the ones already out there and encourage a bit more dispersal.



This first batch has been placed a little further out from the boardwalk, just to the left and in front of the large hide you can see from the end of the boardwalk. They will not be visible from the area you have access to, but keep your eyes peeled around the boardwalk you can walk on and you may be lucky to see some of the harvest mice already out there!

OK.., you have been warned, photo below is of mating adders...



A bit graphic I know, but a rare thing to see... It is quite amazing really. The males have hemipenes, essentially two penises, but only use one at a time. They of course vary, but you can see in the photo above a small spike? This is to help lock him in, so to speak, while the deed is being done.

Now for some amazing facts.

Females can control when they get pregnant. They can store sperm for many years, and so although mated this year, may decide not to use it for another couple of years! Likewise although not mating next year may still become pregnant from the mating this year.

You want more?..

OK..

It is even believed that they can decide which sperm to use. If mated by more than one male, they can chose which males sperm is best when the time comes... or a mix, meaning the litter could have more than one father.

"How amazing is that?" (think we need a second episode of that :-) )




Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Dancing Adders


Well, I promised I would let you know as soon as anything happens... This afternoon our adders attempted, all be it a little lack lustre, to do some dancing.



The silver male and one of the sandy ones had a little go at it, but it did not last long at all. The silver male slithered off very quickly. A couple of times they crossed paths again, and very quickly the silver one wussed out again.

I did not see the other male today, so I hope he was hiding away and shedding. I expect him to give the sandy male a bit more competition, over the coming days/weeks.



For the brief spell they did "dance" it was actually quite impressive. You can see from the photo above they really reared up before going there separate ways.

Anyway, here is a little slow motion video of them dancing earlier today. I will keep my eye on them over the next few days, and hopefully we will get to see some proper "Dance of the Adders" action :-)



Monday, 13 April 2015

Deer and Herons


The last few days of the Easter break brought a lot of action around the Centre. I would usually spread the news out over a couple of posts... but I am aware of imminent dancing of adders, and of course you will hear of that as soon as I see anything... and then quite likely a couple of posts on that.

With that in mind, two of our adders were seen mating over the weekend. Quite a rare sight, but for a lucky few they got a glimpse of this behaviour. Last year a couple mated just days before the dancing began, so I am hopefull for the first sights of the dance later this week. Fingers crossed.



Saturday, and Albus only had one antler as you can see in the top photograph. It is this time of year when they cast, and sometimes they do lose them a day or two apart.

Coming in on Sunday morning, and it was time to go search for the antler again as he lost his second one over night. The regrowth starts straight away, an in around 16 weeks time he will have a nice new set ready for the rut this autumn!



A lot of you have already heard the noise of our rowdy heron chicks. They hatch early most years, and a few of our nests already have broods. They are now just at that age where they are beginning to stand and you can just about see them above the nest.

Best time to have a look is at the end of our day. We often put food out for the herons in the afternoon, and so the chicks are up waiting and the parents are busy taking fish back to the nest. Good views from the boardwalk, but "top tip" for you... the second car park, although a little further away, has cleaner lines of sight to see them. Just remember, we close up at 5pm so don't get locked in!