What with the Samsung business, and the dancing adders, I have a lot of catching up of photos to share with you. Today I am posting a few adder pics, non dancing, from the last few weeks. We can then take a break from the adders, and I will share the other photos including some bluebell ones next week.
Above is one of my favourite photographs I have taken so far this year. It is of a young adder neonate resting up next to mum. Nothing maternal here at all... they youngsters are independent from the moment they are born, just resting here to gain some extra warmth, but it really shows off how small they are. The mother is blurred, but you can tell it is an adult adder, and allows the little done to stand out... you can see the size difference of his scales next to mums gigantic scales!
This is a photograph I tried to get last year, and failed miserably! Fisheye of an adder coming right towards the lens. I am pretty pleased with this one... Ideally I would of liked a better background, but had to go on when the snake decided to investigate the lens. The light is at the wrong angle too for this to be a real stand out image, but again I could only go on as and when he decided to check me out.
A few record shots now, nothing special, but shows off some nice things. Above is an adder just starting to shed. You can see the old skin peeled off around the head... After this photo I had to go off and talk about one martens, and expected him to still be shedding when I got back. But he didn't hang about... the skin was gone!
To see the difference before and after, above is one os our sandy males just before shedding, and below one just after!
You can see how much more vibrant and vivid they are when they have shed, and why people always here me saying "I'm waiting for them to shed before taking pictures"
Just before shedding their eyes cloud over, giving an almost blue glow, before clearing up again and then the shed begins. It is just like a sock coming off. Usually the skin is peeled off in one, from head to tail, and comes off inside out.
This is a photo from last year, but you can see the complete adder skin... the markings on the skin, and even the eye caps if you look close enough! Adders, like all snakes, can't close their eyes, but have a scale over the eye to protect it!
So after shedding and dancing, next up is mating. Above is a photo of a male and female. You can see the male is quite a bit smaller than the female.
It is quite easy to tell the difference between the two in colour terms too. Generally, the males show more contrast between their base coat and pattern. So usually, the males are a silvery or sandy colour with a very vivid black zig-zag marking. The females show less contrast, being more of a brown, copper colour with a dark brown zig-zag marking.
This gets a bit trickier when the males are shedding, as you have seen above, they look a little like females. But when you get the hang of it, you can see the marking still looks dark on the shedding male, the overall colouring is much duller because of shedding, and when fully grown they will be smaller than a female.
It is a rare sight to see our adders mating, but we were privileged to see it a lot this year. Females may mate with many males over the course of a few days, and then remarkably can store the sperm for several years. So even though they have mated, we may not have youngsters this year. Likewise, if we have youngsters in a couple of years time it may be from this mating this year, and not one next year or the year after!
Even more remarkable, if mated with more than one male, she can decide on which males sperm is used or a mix. Isn't nature remarkable?!.
On closer look you can see one of the males penises, and it has a barb. This is used to "tie" himself in while copulating, making it harder for them to part. And yes, you heard me right... one of his penises... they have two!
They are called the hemipenes, and both will have this barb. Both are active, although they do tend to favour one over the other. So why have two?..
I'm glad you asked... Males will often mate with more than one female over several days, but between each mating they will need a bit off time to "prepare" for the next one. This is technically called the "refractory" period. Now, if they have had enough time, they would normally use the same penis. If however they haven't, then their second penis can come in to play and allow them to mate twice in quick succession. This works because where as most animals sperm mixes from both testes, the snake hemipenes have one testes for each penis.
Bit heavy I know, but some of you may find that interesting. :-)
What results?.. Baby adders! Aren't they cute?
This was taken this Spring of one of last years neonates. Curled up like this, she is sitting on the ground in an area of approx a milk bottle top. In other words, tiny!
Many snakes lay eggs, but adders are one of a few that give birth to live young... again, this gets complicated... even more so than the mating and two penises, so I will leave it simple and just say they give live birth.
So next up for our adders. Feeding. While dancing the males have no interest in food what so ever. I have fed our females, but the males will be having there first feed this weekend. This photo is from last year.
And to finish up. Another of my favourites of the last few weeks. This is slightly out of focus on the mouth unfortunately, but it is the closest I have got to an image I have been after for years... a Yawning adder right down the lens!
Thanks for looking... Bluebells next :-)