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British Snakes

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Messages: 1 - 9 of 9
  • Message 1. 

    Posted by sparrowhawk44 (U13987430) on Monday, 30th May 2011

    How do you tell the british snakes apart?
    I tried to define the snakes before and forgot!

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  • Message 2

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by WILDcat (U14503506) on Monday, 30th May 2011

    Well there aren't many British snakes in fact there are only 3 and they're quiet different:

    Grass snake: www.oxfordshire-arg....
    Grass snakes have a yellow collar, which is quiet easy to spot and are brown on top with with black stipes on their flanks.

    Adders: www.surrey-arg.org.u...

    Adders are black and white (rarely brown and white) and have a distinctive diamond pattern on them.

    Smooth snake: www.lehart.org/ident...

    Smooth snakes are rarely found, they are a light brown in colour and have slightly darker brown sports in twos down their backs, these sports are usually parallel to each other

    Hope this helps (:

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  • Message 3

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by theSteB (U13982963) on Monday, 30th May 2011

    The main thing to look out for is the overall shape and pattern - along with the habitat the snake is in. Adders are relatively shorter and thicker little snakes, with a distinct zig-zag pattern running along their length. Although this might not always be visible if it was one of the more unusual black, or very dark ones that occassionally occur. Grass Snakes, are a much longer thinner snakes. They do not have a distinct zig-zag pattern on their back, but short black blobs or dashes along their flanks and ligher ones on its back. They can vary in colour from brown to olive.

    In most of the country these are the only 2 snakes you will find. The Smooth Snake is quite rare and only occurs on some heathland in the south of England, with strongholds in the Dorset/Hampshire area. It is more similar to a Grass Snake in appearance, generally without the more distinctive black markings on the Grass Snake, and the markings behind its head are generally just black, and not black and yellow, like the grass snake.

    Habitat is also a good guide. Grass Snakes tend to occur around water, and you often see them swimming, although you can find them away from water. Adders tend to prefer habitats like heathland and moorland. As mentioned above, Smooth Snakes are confined to a few patches of heathland in the south of England. Although all 3 snakes can be found on some of this sourthern heathland.

    Whilst there are much better descriptions I'd advise you to look at to be sure, I was trying to give you a rough guide. The sort of impression you might get at a distance, if you were not able to see all the detail from close-up. Bascially, anywhere apart from a few of those southern heathlands, if it is a long thin snake without a distinctive zig-zag, it's a Grass Snake, and if it's a shorter stumpier snake with a distinct zig-zag along its length, it's an Adder.

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  • Message 4

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by Natrix10 (U14677642) on Monday, 30th May 2011


    Most snakes, including our natives, are variable in colour. Adders are cream, silvery grey, pale to dark brown or reddish, with black or dark brown markings. Individuals with pale background and dark markings are usually male, and the darker individuals with dark brown markings tend to be females, which are also bigger. Melanic (black) individuals exist....as on tonight's programme.

    Grass snakes are greenish, greyish or brownish olive with dark markings along the sides. They usually have a black and yellow collar which fades in older snakes. Again, melanic specimens are rare but do occur.

    Smooth snakes are brownish grey with darker markings along the back. They are small snakes, and very rare in Britain, only found on heathland in Dorset and Hampshire. If you see one, you are very, very lucky!

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  • Message 5

    , in reply to message 3.

    Posted by Natrix10 (U14677642) on Monday, 30th May 2011


    Sorry theSteB, I started to write my piece before you posted yours, didn't mean to duplicate info.

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  • Message 6

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by Mike (U12205184) on Monday, 30th May 2011

    These are some Adder photos I have taken over recent years. I think they show the variation in colours quite well (unfortunately no black tho) and the basic markings which are the best way to identify adders.

    www.flickr.com/photo...

    www.flickr.com/photo...

    www.flickr.com/photo...

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    www.flickr.com/photo...

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    www.flickr.com/photo...

    www.flickr.com/photo...

    www.flickr.com/photo...

    and my only useable grass snake shot. It was a very small specimen (probably very young) and doesn't show the body markings which are sometimes visible but does show the neck markings which are the most reliable way to identify this species

    www.flickr.com/photo...


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  • Message 7

    , in reply to message 6.

    Posted by sparrowhawk44 (U13987430) on Tuesday, 31st May 2011

    Thanks smiley - smiley

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  • Message 8

    , in reply to message 6.

    Posted by Natrix10 (U14677642) on Tuesday, 31st May 2011

    Great photos Mike-very impressive! How do you get so close? The adders around my area vanish well before a 70mm lens distance - I use a 200mm for even a chance at a shot.

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  • Message 9

    , in reply to message 8.

    Posted by Mike (U12205184) on Tuesday, 31st May 2011

    Fieldcraft Natrix10 smiley - winkeye

    But seriously thanks for your comments. You must have read some of my notes on the photos. I have photographed them from about 0.6m with a 35-70mm lens (at 70mm) but all of the ones I've posted above were with a longer zoom (up to 300mm). Most were at the min working distance for my current 100-300mm which is approx 1.3m, although I do get nearer and have to move back to take some shots.

    The classic advice for photographing adders is to catch them early in the morning before they have had a chance to warm up and become active but I'm not a great fan of my alarm clock and don't usually manage much before 10.30am and sometimes quite a bit after that. I do however, get most of my shots on sunny days in early spring (late Feb to mid March) or late Oct/early Nov, when despite the sun it is colder and takes them longer to become fully alert. Having said that they will move off if I disturb them.

    Another reason for taking my shots at that time of year is because the habitat in which I see them is not the more normal open heath/grassland. I usually see them on the edge of woodland in fairly dense undergrowth with sunspots. Once the vegetation is in foliage and before it has started to drop again it is much more difficult to spot them and to get a reasonably clear shot.

    Habitat may also play a part in being able to get close. It seems that they are not necessarily disturbed merely by by being aware of my presence. Provided they don't feel threatened they appear to put up with me being there. They may feel safer in the undergrowth than on more open ground but my comment about fieldcraft above was not entirely tongue in cheek. It is better if they don't know you're there so staying down wind, keeping quiet and stepping as lightly as possible are important but helped by the fact that their eyesight is not very good. If they do show signs of knowing I'm there keeping movement smooth and to a minimum and not threatening them in any way (leave the leather jacket at home smiley - winkeye ) often seems to calm them down. Learning the habitat and how they respond will help a great deal so watching from a distance for a while can only help.

    I think they are going to feature a woman who has studied them for years on this series of SW so hopefully we can all learn a little more and pick up some expert advice.

    I'm sure that Rob (bothrops) will comment here too if he visits the board this series and he is also much more knowledgeable than me so watch this space!

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