Pennine adders, reptiles and amphibians talk
Long-time member David Alred’s presentation was entitled ‘Pennine adders, reptiles and amphibians’. His photographs stretched back to the 1980s, when he first began to investigate our local adders. David is a proper field naturalist, and his painstaking observations were extremely instructive. Many of our reptiles and amphibians undeservedly suffer an image problem, which this presentation helped to dispel. The images of groups of entwined snakes were quite beautiful. We learned about the complex processes involved when they slough their skins. An entire inside-out skin must be a remarkable find. It was fascinating to see the difference in colours and scale structure between the upper surface of the body and the underside, with its overlapping scales enabling efficient and sometimes speedy movement. We also learned that once the prey item (typically a mouse) is bitten, it will not die immediately, but may retreat to its burrow and die there of cardiac arrest, the adder then following the scent trail. This snake’s life cycle was described to us in detail. The female bears typically 6-8 live young, who – if they survive the odds stacked against them – may live twenty years.
Sometimes, slowworms may be found sharing hibernation space with adders, although once the eating season begins, they may become lunch rather than bed-mates. The slowworm is a particular favourite of David’s and he spoke appealingly of the pleasure of picking one up and running his fingers along its length. We also saw images of the common lizard, as well as frogs, natterjack toads and common toads. These will be starting to breed soon, and will need extra assistance crossing busy roads. Grass snakes then featured, with one amazing photograph showing the surface tension on the water around its protruding head.
Next time: Recorders’ Evening on 14 March.