Common frog, Grass frog, Rana temporaria

 

Frogs have always fascinated me and I love to see them in my pond, they are a good sign of a healthy garden.

Frogs are widespread throughout our country. In spring, they are busy mating in the ponds and producing frog spawn. Frog spawn is seen in a clump and toad spawn is in a long line like a piece of rope.

Only five frogs per two thousand will survive in the wild so please leave the spawn alone, these critters are battling against the odds as it is. Far too many creatures find tadpoles a tasty morsel like fish, birds, newts, water shrews, water beetles and insects, so by having frogs in your garden, you’re attracting all of them.

They are wary of humans. An injured frog should be placed in a box with damp leaves or newspaper and brought to your nearest Vet or Wildlife Rescue Centre. They are creatures of habit and return to the pond they were born in to mate, so if you do happen to see them crossing the road to get to their pond, give them a helping hand.

Frogs eat ants and are a much better method than using ant powder that will seep into the water table. 

They love the warmth and dampness of greenhouses and can keep the pesky insects away. During winter, frogs can lie dormant in ponds.

Frogs can also be strimmed so please be careful. They can get caught in small garden mesh so please make sure any mesh you use is 4cm squared - or larger - for your veggies.

Yes, it's a red frog with blue eyes! This frog was recently caught by my son - being a Manchester United Supporter - he was really excited because the frog was red. These are sometimes found in Scotland along with black ones. 

We have called him Fletcher - after Darren Fletcher. 

Why not check out your own ponds and send us any unusual coloured frogs for our website. Remember, send us the photo...not the frog please!

The common frog can breathe through its skin; this enables them to hibernate for several months beneath piles of mud and decaying leaves underwater.

In the wild, the common frog can live for up to 8 years.

They can be anywhere between 6 and 10cm long, although they are usually around 7.5 to 8cm. They have an average weight of 22.7 grams and females are usually slightly larger than males.

Frogs have a robust body and relatively short hind limbs with webbed toes. Males tend to be slightly smaller and darker than females and can also be distinguished by the dark blue/black nuptial pads (swellings) on their first fingers. These pads become more pronounced during the breeding season, helping males to grip onto females during mating. The frogs’ smooth skin varies in colour from grey, olive green and yellow to various shades of brown and is covered with irregular dark blotches. Common frogs have a dark ‘mask’ enclosing their eyes and eardrums, and often have barred markings on their limbs and flanks. Their undersides are white or yellow - sometimes orange in females - and are often covered with brown or orange speckles. Completely red or black individuals are occasionally found in Scotland, and some may turn blue during the breeding season. Albino common frogs have been found with yellow skin and red eyes. These frogs also have the ability to lighten or darken their skin to match their environment. They have brown eyes with black horizontal pupils, and transparent inner eyelids that protect their eyes while underwater.

Common frogs are largely terrestrial outside the breeding season, and can be found in meadows, gardens and woodland. They breed in puddles, ponds, lakes and canals but prefer areas of shallow water.

Common frogs do not feed at all during the breeding season - but when they are active, they will feed on any moving invertebrates of a suitable size, such as insects, snails, slugs and worms, which they catch with their long, sticky tongues. Adult frogs feed entirely on land, whereas younger frogs will also feed in the water. Tadpoles are herbivorous and feed on algae but become carnivores when they mature into adult frogs.

Although common frogs are active both day and night, they tend to be more active during the night. During the winter they hibernate in compost heaps, under stones and logs, or underwater beneath piles of mud and decaying leaves.

Common frogs become sexually mature at around three years old. During February and March they begin to emerge from hibernation and make their way to the breeding grounds. They have been seen to return annually to the sites where they originally developed from spawn. The males arrive first and attempt to attract a mate by producing a low purring croak. A successful male will wrap his forelimbs around the female in a mating embrace known as 'amplexus'. Each female lays 1000-4000 eggs at a time, which are fertilized by the male as they are released. Frogs can spawn as early as December and as late as April, depending on how warm the weather is.

They prefer to lay their eggs in shallow, still water. Frog spawn is surrounded with a clear jelly-like substance, which swells up in the water to protect the fragile embryos. The spawn floats to the surface in large round clumps so that the sun can warm them. After 30 - 40 days, tadpoles begin to emerge from the jelly-like spawn. These tadpoles feed on the spawn for the first few days until they begin to eat algae. Tadpoles change into frogs through a process called ‘metamorphosis’, which takes between 12 and 14 weeks. Both spawn and tadpoles are extremely vulnerable, and many get eaten by predators such as fish, birds and grass snakes.

When tadpoles hatch they have gills that allow them to breathe underwater. After 9 weeks, they then lose their gills and develop lungs, and therefore swim to the surface to breathe. As they grow, tadpoles begin to feed on insects as well as plants. Hind legs develop between 6 - 9 weeks, and front legs are fully developed after around 11 weeks. The tail begins to be absorbed by the developing tadpole, and by 12 weeks it has practically disappeared, leaving a tiny froglet. At this stage the tadpoles are less dependent on water and will hide in long grass in and around the pond.

The common frog is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981. 

Voice: Males emit a low purring croak during the breeding season, this can only be heard up to 50 meters away because common frogs do not have any vocal sacs.

Notes: They can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. Their eyes and nostrils are on the top of their heads so they can see and breathe even when most of their body is underwater.

Common Toad, Bufo Bufo, Spawn, Toadlets

In spring, Toads are busy mating in the ponds and producing toadlets. Frog spawn can be seen in a clump and toad spawn is in a long line like a piece of rope.

Only five frogs/toads per two thousand will survive so please leave the spawn alone, these critters are battling against the odds as it is. 

Fish, birds, newts, water shrews, water beetles, and insects are all eaten by toads.

They are all wary of humans. An injured toad should be placed in a box with damp leaves or newspaper and brought to your nearest Vet or Wildlife Rescue. 

Toads are solitary creatures, except during breeding season. They excavate a shallow burrow, which they return to after foraging for prey. They are nocturnal and shelter under tree roots, stones and vegetation during the day. They shed their skin regularly, and often eat the sloughed skin. Contrary to popular belief, they tend to walk rather than hop.

They are creatures of habit and return to the pond they were born in to mate, so if you do happen to see them crossing the road to get to their pond give them a helping hand.

Please be extremely careful when you do this; it's no good saving a toad and getting run down yourself. Common toads do secrete an irritant substance from their skin that prevents most predators from eating them. Unfortunately for the toads, a few predators such as grass snakes and hedgehogs, do not seem to be deterred by this irritant. As well as having an unpleasant taste, common toads also adopt a defense posture when threatened that makes them appear much larger than usual and so deters predators. They do this by stretching out their legs, inflating their lungs with air and leaning their heads downwards.

Common toads are opportunistic feeders, catching invertebrates such as insects, larvae, spiders, slugs and worms on their sticky tongues, so they are great to have around to maintain that balance in your garden. Much better than ant powder, slug pellets and other poisons that will seep into the water table! Larger toads also prey on slow worms, small grass snakes and harvest mice which are swallowed alive. Toads can sometimes be seen in the daytime following rainfall, but they are generally nocturnal, being most active on rainy nights.

They love the warmth and damp of greenhouses and can keep pesky insects down. During winter toads do hibernate. They hibernate in October, typically under deep leaf litter, logs, timber piles, or in burrows and drainpipes. They will occasionally hibernate in mud at the bottom of a pond, but tend to live away from water except during the breeding season. They emerge from hibernation in spring (late March) and migrate to breeding sites.

Common toads can live for up to 40 years. Their body length is 8-15cm and males are smaller than females. Common toads have a broad, squat body, with short toes, webbed hind feet and a rounded snout. Their eyes are orange with black horizontal pupils. They are covered in raised warts, particularly on the back and sides. Their skin colour varies according to area, time of year, sex and age. They can be dark brown, grey, olive, terracotta or sandy coloured, with a grey-white underside and are sometimes covered in darker markings on their backs.

Only male common toads croak, which can be a useful way of distinguishing males and females, for males will ‘squeak’ if picked up. Larger males have deeper croaks then smaller individuals. This difference in pitch enables toads to assess their chances of success before a fight and so avoid battles that they are likely to lose. The male 'release' call (when another male has mistaken it for a female) is the most often heard call, which is a rough, high-pitched 'quark, quark, quark'. The mating call is rarely heard. Although males usually wait for females at breeding sites, they will sometimes try to ambush them before they reach the water. Males clamber onto the backs of females and hold onto them tightly (a posture known as amplexus); the nuptial pads on their fingers providing extra grip. Over-eager males sometimes grab another male but the captured male’s croak soon informs them of their mistake. Common toads spawn amongst waterweed. The female releases long strings of triple-stranded eggs, which the male on her back fertilises with sperm. About 600-4000 eggs are laid. These strings become twisted and stretched around waterweed and vegetation so that the eggs settle into two strands. A few days later the adults leave the water. The tadpoles hatch within 10 days and despite being distasteful to most predators, the majority will not reach adulthood. The tadpoles metamorphosise into toadlets within 2-3 months - varying according to food availability and water temperature - and leave the water in May.

They have two prominent glands behind the eyes, which produce a foul-tasting and irritating secretion. Common toads do not have an external throat sac. 

Males have thicker forelimbs and shorter fingers than females, and can be easily distinguished by the dark-coloured nuptial pads on the inner three fingers of their forelimbs. These pads become more prominent during the breeding season.

The common toad is widespread in mainland Britain, but is absent from Ireland. They can be found over most of Europe, northwest Africa and Asia. Common toads inhabit damp areas of deciduous woodland, scrub, gardens, parks and fields. In the breeding season, they live in ponds, lakes, ditches and slow-moving rivers.

 

 

Swans live on large freshwater areas, such as rivers, lakes and canals. They are both majestic and clumsy at the same time, yet remain one of our most magnificent birds. They have been treasured and owned by royalty during our history and alway attract admiring glances from people when they spot one.

If you find an injured or stranded swan, please call us or your nearest rescue.

The adult swans are all white, whilst their young cygnets are grey to begin with and then develop brown feathers which they keep until their second year. They have a reddish-orange bill, with a black knob of skin at the base.

They can be up to 1.5m high with a wingspan of 2.25m. Males weigh approximately 12kg and females around 8-10kg.

Most swans do not live more than 7 years in the wild but some can actually live up to 50 years.

They eat underwater plants, grasses and cereal crops. The graceful mute swan is Britain's largest bird and one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. There are six other species of swan in the world, but the mute is the only one that stays in the UK, with us, all year

The male swan (cob) will fiercely defend the territory that he and his mate (pen) share. If an intruder, such as another male swan, dares to invade his territory, he uses a threat posture - raising his wings and back feathers, while lowering his head and moving powerfully through the water. This display usually frightens away the intruder, but if this doesn't work, the defending cob can drown intruders. Most other water birds know to keep well away from swans.

Mute swans pair for life. They will mate and then begin building a nest in March and April. The nest is built on the ground, near to water and in an undisturbed place.

The cob collects reeds and sticks, bringing them to the female so she can arrange them. The nest is often a very big platform-like structure, and may be the pair's old nest, which has been rebuilt and used year after year. Although the cob and pen look very similar at first glance, they can be told apart by looking at their beaks. In the spring and summer the cob's bill is a brighter colour than the pens, and the black knob is more bulbous. The cob is never far from his mate on the nest, keeping an eye out for intruders. If a potential predator gets too close, he will hiss at them and if necessary will charge at them with flapping wings.

The pen lays 5 - 8 large, greenish-brown eggs, one every two days. She does most of the incubation, which starts as soon as the last egg has been laid. This allows all the young to hatch at the same time - after 36 days. Soon after hatching, the young swans (cygnets) covered with fluffy, grey down, leave the nest. Their parents pull up water plants for them to eat, and they snap up mini beasts from the surface of the water.

The cygnets stay with their parents until the next winter - by which time they are losing the brown plumage that had replaced the grey down. It will be a full year before they are completely white, and they will be ready to breed when they are 3/4 years old. At this time of the year we see a lot of young swans in that have become lost as they leave their home - some land in very strange places! They can often mistake roads for rivers and once down, they become disorientated, weak and unable to fly. We see an influx of teenage swans at this time. Swans need a lot of space to be able get back into the sky if you see one in distress please phone your nearest rescue center.

For centuries, mute swans were known as 'birds royal' because only the king or a few specially favoured subjects could keep them. They were often served up and roasted at banquets - a roast swan must have required a very large plate!

Flight feathers from the female swan were used as writing implements, then known as 'pen quills' and later as 'quill pens', until the 'quill' was left out and only the word 'pen' remained. So our present-day ballpoint etc. take their name from the female swan!

Over the last 30 - 40 years, the mute swan population has fluctuated. Many swans living on rivers where coarse fishing is popular, died because they were swallowing lead fishing weights with their food. Lead is very poisonous! Since 1987, the use of lead weights has been banned in the UK and its swan population has recovered. The main hazards we still see are carelessly discarded fishhooks and lengths of nylon fishing line - both can cause a swan to suffer a painful death. The hook gets lodged in the throat and the throat gets ripped open. We treat many swans through the year that have been injured by fishing hooks and fishing tackle.

If you see a swan in distress call your local rescue and they will have the equipment to come and help rescue the wonderful creature.

Mustela Erminea, dog, bitch, kittens, kits

We all love watching these when they come into the rescue - they are one of natures most entertaining mammals.

A stoat is a small carnivorous mammal of the weasel family which has chestnut fur with white under parts and a black-tipped tail.

Stoats are members of the Mustelids, this includes weasels, badgers, otters, polecats, martens, pine martens and skunks. In the wild these cute faced mammals usually live for between 1- 2 years but in captivity can reach 7 years. 

Their head/body length is around 25 cm, with the tail adding another 26 cm or more. They weigh around 140 - 445 grams and the females are often 50% smaller than the male.

Stoats live in woods, farmland, uplands, moorlands, marshes, sand dunes and hedgerows. They prefer tree hollows, rock crevices, under a log or stone wall or a burrow from one of its prey victims. Around the den the stoat holds a territory, the size of which depends on the type of habitat and the abundance of prey with in it.

Almost any type of country habitat may be inhabited by Stoats, although they prefer an area which has good cover. On farmlands they will keep to walls, hedges and fences where possible. In Europe this is normally between 2,000 and 4000 sq.m but in a more barren habitat it may be up to 10,000 sq.m.

Stoats are solitary animals and will only socialise with each other in the breeding season, being very promiscuous. Mating occurs in the middle of August. 

In spite of being such a small animal, the stoat's gestation is among the longest reported for mammals (11 months). This is because of the adaptation of delayed implantation or embryonic diapause in which a fertilised egg is not implanted in the uterus until months later. The animal's "real" gestation is much shorter.

Six or more kittens are born in a hidden nest, often an old rabbit burrow lined with fur. At birth, the kittens are blind and have a covering of fine white hair with a much thicker fur at the back of the neck so that the mother can carry them safely in her mouth. Their eyes do not open until they are at least a month old. They are weaned at about 5 weeks and at 6 weeks the black tip appears on their tail. After the young have left the den, the family stays together for some time hunting and playing together.

The mother will defend her family fiercely. This is a wonderful time to get a glimpse of these playful creatures as they tumble and play in meadows.

Stoats are a true carnivore, although it will also eat birds eggs. The Stoat mainly feeds on small mammals such as hares, rabbits, mice, voles and shrews - whatever is available in its territory. They will also eat birds and when prey is scarce they will even eat earthworms, large insects and carrion (dead animals).

The Stoat is active by day or night. They are alert and inquisitive and are one of the fiercest of predators. They move really fast - up to 20 miles an hour and will bound over the ground. The Stoat’s eyesight is a resolution below that of humans but their night vision is better.

A Stoat will track its prey by scent; with the ability to locate a victim from a great distance. It will follow a trail relentlessly and once in pursuit, the victim has little chance of escaping. It kills by pouncing on the prey and biting deeply into the back of the neck near the base of the skull.

A Stoat will perform strange antics as part of its hunting strategy; it will approach a group of birds or rabbits and then jump around pretending to ignore the animals who are attracted to this odd performance and edge nearer to get a better look, the Stoat will then suddenly pounce on the nearest member of its audience.

During the winter, a Stoats coat will turn pure white except for the tip of the tail which remains black.

When alarmed, a stoat can release a powerful musky smell from glands near its anus.

Predators include humans, foxes, snakes and wild cats.

The Stoats beautiful white coat in winter (ermine) has always been used by man to trim robes that have been worn by royalty. 50,000 ermine pelts were sent from Canada to England for King George VI’s coronation in 1938.

They were once trapped in large numbers in the Arctic, Russia and North America, but in recent time, the price of labour to process such tiny pelts has not made hunting them worthwhile.

In Britain, Stoats have been ruthlessly trapped by gamekeepers who accuse them of stealing game birds, despite the fact that their main prey is rabbits and mice. Today, this persecution has been much reduced and Stoats have started to recover in numbers. 

When rabbits were affected by the disease myxomatosis in the 1950’s, almost all of them were wiped out and in the areas where Stoats depended heavily on rabbits, their numbers rapidly declined. 

"Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we're beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of this century and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin."  Dick Irwin, toxicologist at Texas A&M Universities.

How cool are these mini beasts! The come in amazing colours, shapes and sizes. 

They are tiny little miracle machines that wouldn't be out of place in any sci-fi film. What’s more, they all help the garden in so many ways and the children will love them so please don't kill them!

Slug pellets and pesticides kill slugs and insects. That’s because they are poisonous. 

These insects and slugs do not eat to annoy you, they eat to survive. Any poison ensures a painful and slow death. The poison can be passed onto larger animals that eat them and when they die that poison will end up in our water table. 

Whilst that may sound extreme, it is not.

We must protect our planet and maintain the natural balance. We can still progress but must strive to find greener solutions to everyday issues. If we all do just that little extra everyday, we can work towards a greener planet together.

DO NOT USE SLUG PELLETS OR INSECTICIDES AS THEY END UP IN OUR WATER TABLE.

Many of our most precious native creatures feed off these cute beasts so why not encourage them to frequent your garden and help balance our environment.

DO NOT USE CHEMICALS TO KILL. 

Bio-Magnification

Conservative pollutants are not metabolised (broken down inside an organism) and therefore when an organism containing a pollutant is eaten, the pollutants are simply passed on to the predator and accumulate in its tissues. By consuming many prey, an organism may build up very high concentrations of the pollutant in its tissues. This process may continue up the food chain, leaving the top predator with very high and sometimes lethal concentrations of the pollutant.

Organisms may ingest or absorb more than one pollutant at a time. Two pollutants may interact to produce a toxic effect which is greater than the combined effect of the two pollutants simply added together i.e. one of the pollutants may increase the mortality caused by the other. This is called synergism. High concentrations of lead, zinc and mercury are each capable of slightly reducing the growth rate of aquatic protozoa, but when acting together the overall effect is much higher. 

Organic

Organochlorines are hydrophobic (water-hating) and show low solubility in water, but are readily soluble in fat (lipophilic). Consequently, they will often accumulate in the fatty (adipose) tissue of an organism. In the past, organochlorines have been widely used as pesticides. 

They have two important characteristics:

1. They are chemically stable and remain active in the environment for many years.

2. They are fat-soluble and readily concentrate in adipose tissue. Whilst there, even high concentrations may cause little if any harm.

However, in times of food shortage, fat reserves may be metabolised, releasing the pesticide into the blood of the organism. This may be fatal.

 

Our Otters

Otters declined rapidly in the UK after the 1950’s. The use of pesticides were greatly increased at this time especially aldrin and dieldrin. These pesticides were then washed off the land into rivers etc. and contaminated fish with tiny amounts of poison. Even though the fish may not affect the otter in the first instance, the poison gradually accumulates in an otter eating a lot of fish, resulting in its death. Although most of these pesticides have been restricted since 1962, otter numbers have not increased a great deal since.

 

Clear Lake

California was a popular resort for bathers and anglers but also a breeding ground for a non-biting midge. In 1949, DDD - a close relative of DDT - was used as an insecticide to kill the midges. The volume of the lake was calculated and one part of DDD was added to 70 million parts of water. 99% of the midges were killed, but over the next few years numbers began to rise again. In 1954, the spraying was repeated at a slightly higher concentration which killed most of the midges. However, following this application over a hundred of the Western Grebes which nested on the lake were found dead. Following a third treatment in 1957, more Western Grebes were found dead. There was no evidence of infectious disease, but the fatty tissue of the birds showed the amount of DDD averaged 1600mg per kg of fat; a bio magnification factor of 114,000 compared to the DDD in the water. During this time, the anglers had been eating their catches. Although the authorities believed that the DDD posed no health risk to humans, in 1959 they banned any further spraying. 

Since then, it has been discovered that DDD strongly suppresses the normal function of the human adrenal cortex. 

Population Decline of the Sparrow Hawk 

Around 1960, the sparrow hawk population decreased dramatically throughout Britain and this was attributed to the use of organochlorine pesticides which contaminated its prey. 

A major reason for this decline was that the birds began to lay eggs with extremely thin shells which then broke before hatching. At this time, scientists had little idea of why this was happening, but we now know that once inside the body of the sparrow hawk, DDD was metabolised to DDE which, as usual, concentrated in fatty tissues including the egg yolk. DDE inhibits the action of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase which regulates the deposition of calcium in the egg shells. High concentrations of DDE would therefore result in thin-shelled and easily-broken eggs. 

Although DDE was present at sub lethal levels (i.e. insufficient to kill the adult birds) it could still contribute to the population decline. The population decline was, however, more rapid than can be explained by reduced breeding success alone. It is now thought that the high rate of mortality was a result of a synergistic action between DDD and some other organochlorines such as Aldrin and Dieldrin. 

The introduction of organochlorines in the late 1950s had similar effects on the number of kestrels, peregrine falcons and other raptors in Britain. The population of these birds has increased in size between 1963 to 1986 due to successive reductions in the use of such hazardous pesticides.

PLEASE DO NOT USE PESTICIDES, USE NATURE.

Mercury

In freshwater, inorganic mercury is transformed by micro organisms into highly toxic methylated mercury. This compound rapidly accumulates in plants, invertebrates and fish then bio magnifies along the food chain. 

Mercury has always been known to be harmful, but the full extent of this danger was brought home by the epidemic of poisoning at Minamata Bay in Japan in the 1950s. 

From 1952, the only local industry discharged mercury-containing effluent directly into the bay. One of the compounds concerned - methyl mercury - acts as a cumulative poison causing delirium, loss of motor control and irreversible brain damage. 

The first case of "Minamata disease" - as it came to be known - appeared among fishermen in 1953; a link was made with consumption of seafood by 1956. A partial ban of fishing was in place by the next year, but discharge of mercury into the bay continued for another 11 years. Eventually 107 people died of Minamata disease and at least another 700 were left permanently disabled.

Other concerns are 

. Studies show that the growth of young birds can be stunted in areas where insecticides have been used heavily. 

. Developmental and behavioural effects in various animal species.

. Associated with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

. Reproductive and endocrine disruptions. 

. Associated with a cancer in dogs (canine malignant lymphoma). 

. Increased number of abnormal sperm in exposed farmers. 

. Decreased fertility in male rats.

A small venomous Eurasian snake which has a dark zigzag pattern on its back and bears live young. 

It is the only poisonous snake in Britain.

Adders are one of only three UK snakes. They can be found evenly distributed all over mainland UK and are Scotland's only resident snake. Ireland has no snakes. They are able to stand colder temperatures than the grass snake and smooth snake and are found far north in Scotland as a testament to this ability.

If you are walking in a country park or common you may just get a glimpse of this stunning creature. Our native adder does have a toxic bite so be careful when jumping around in heather so as not to disturb him. As with all our snakes they are very timid and far more fearful of you. They are not aggressive but will defend if disturbed. Adders will always flee from pets and humans. As a child I loved these and would watch them for hours.

Their movement is fast and their markings are both striking and spectacular.

They usually only bite when trodden on or picked up . In many cases the first bite is not toxic and is often a warning. However if you have been bitten please go to the nearest hospital immediately.

It is estimated that the adder has claimed the lives of around 10 people within the last 100 years or so, however our modern knowledge about snake bites and good access to medical care has greatly reduced the threat that they pose to life. 

Only those that are susceptible to anaphylactic shock (hypersensitivity allergic reaction in humans and other mammals) are at major risk. The venom of the adder is actually quite strong, however, adders do not inject a large amount at any one time or strike repeatedly as with other venomous snakes making them less of a risk. The elderly, the young and those in ill health are most at risk from the Adders' bite.

Adders use venom to immobilize prey. After striking their prey, they will leave the venom to take effect before following the scent of the victim to find the body. This is an economical way of hunting, avoiding any damage that could be caused by struggling with prey. An Adders' diet consists mainly of small mammals, including voles, shrews, mice, lizards, young birds and frogs. If you find a snake, stay calm, don't touch it and don’t panic. It’s rare to have one in the garden so treasure it.They do a lot of good and nature has a role for them. There’s no need to be scared because if left alone they will go away.

Adders are found in a variety of habitats, including chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes and stone quarries. Adders will venture into wetlands if dry ground is available nearby. Therefore, they may be found on the banks of streams, lakes and ponds. They usually prefer open ground with grass cover as food is abundant. The easiest time to spot adders is during the spring when they are searching for a mate or when they are sunbathing on sunny rocks or banks.

If you use netting in your garden please ensure it is about 4cm square to reduce the risk of a snake being caught in it. Snakes slither through the netting to get to food like frogs and toads and fish. After they have eaten they are often unable to get back through and get stuck. They are about 50-65cm in length. Females are larger than the males. Adders are relatively short and robust with large heads and a rounded snout. The red-brown eyes have vertical elliptical - rather than round - pupils; a feature of all venomous snakes. Males are usually a grey or buff colour with vivid black markings, although they can also vary from silver to yellow or green in colour. Females are brown with dark red-brown markings that are less prominent than in the males. Both sexes have a zigzag pattern running along the back with a V, H or X-shaped marking at the rear of the head, although this zigzag pattern may be replaced by a straight brown stripe with dark spots on either side. Adders have black undersides. Melanistic or black individuals sometimes occur in more mountainous regions.

Adders are active during the day, spending time basking until their body temperature is high enough to hunt for food. In some hotter countries, they may emerge at dawn and dusk to avoid the intense heat. Their only real predator is the buzzard but they are under threat from loss of habitat due to human intervention.

Adders typically hibernate from September to March in log piles or in the abandoned burrows of small mammals in high dry soil. There can be as many as 100 adders in a Hibernacula. Males emerge from hibernation 2-5 weeks before the females and shed their skin before setting off in search of females.

Mating takes place between April and May after hibernation, with males often fighting for females. They rear up at each other and try to push the head of their opponent onto the ground. Eventually, one male will give up and search for another mate this is called “the dance of the adders”.

A male will follow the female around until she allows him to copulate with her. This takes place in April-May. Adders have a 3 to 4 month gestation period before giving birth and are one of the few snakes that are viviparous (give birth to live young). 

Females give birth in August or September to between 5 and 20 live young although usually the number is between 6 and 10. The young remain close to their mother for a few days and are exact replicas of their parents in every way. They are between 14-20 cm long and will live off their yolk sacks before going off in search of food. Females do not breed on consecutive years, as they do not have time to build up sufficient fat reserves to produce another set of young from one breeding season to the next. If the climate is harsh they many not breed for three years.

Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from being killed, injured or sold.

QUICK FACTS

Diet

Voles, shrews, mice, lizards, young birds and frogs

Physical

Length: 50-65cm. Females larger than males. Males are usually a grey or buff colour with vivid black markings. Females are brown with dark red-brown markings that are less prominent than in the males. Zigzag pattern on back with a V, H or X-shaped marking at the rear of the head.

Age

They can live to 30 years old

Habitat 

Chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes and stone quarries. In wetlands if dry ground is available nearby.

Reproduction

Adders are sexually mature at 3-4 years old.

Mating takes place between April and May after hibernation,

Males follow the females around until she allows them to copulate with her. This takes place in April-May.

Females give birth in late August to between 5 and 20 live young. Females do not breed on consecutive years.

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