Sunday, 4 March 2012

Snakes alive

Most people walking across the Common never see the snakes basking a few metres from their feet. For the snakes, and for many of the people, this is probably a good thing. But for a few of us who admire their sinuous beauty, these few weeks in March are a long-awaited spring spectacle.

Adders lie in little coils at the foot of scrub islands in the meadow, half hidden among the moss, dead grass and leaves. They often curl up together for warmth, in what look to human eyes like affectionate entwinings. From a distance you'd guess they were heaps of dog poo (which suddenly disappear from view unless you approach on tiptoes).

Grass snakes are much more elusive, a truly shy creature and lighting-fast when they shoot under cover. I hear them much more often than I see them. But yesterday I spotted a rather torpid one waiting to absorb some heat from fleeting sunbursts on a cold afternoon. Look closely at the photograph and you'll see that it's lying on top of an adder. I've seen these two species basking close together before, but never actually touching. Clearly, neither sees the other as a threat.

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