The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Hello and welcome. The winter gave us a few challenges, not the least with the rain and consequential waterlogging of much of the site. Puckles Pond had to be closed off as the decking became submerged and dangerously slippery. We have now covered the decking with chicken wire, half of which was done with water lapping around our boots, so it is no longer slippery and fingers crossed we won't need to close the pond off again, as although the pond does fill rather more than all the others it doesn't normally flood the decking.
The areas of walkways that tend to get boggy have been topped with gravel in an attempt to keep them accessible, and our two Jubilee Benches are now in site replacing two benches that were rather the worse for wear. The work parties have continued each month with the help of our loyal volunteers; litter picking is a job that often keeps us busy between the monthly work parties. With all the rain the wood on the Spanish Steps (the straight steps) has been rotting unusually quickly so repairing them has helped to keep us busy the last three months.
The main stretch of roadway from the main gates has been widened as has the honeycomb path from Prewers Pond towards the Spanish steps and the start of the climb to High Ridge from the centre of the site.
We are well into Spring and the Reserve is now alive with wildlife of all kinds. Many reptiles can be found, if you are very careful how you go about looking for them.
The Adder (Vipera berus)
The Adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have the most highly developed venom injecting mechanism of all snakes, but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. No one has died from adder bite in Britain for over 20 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising in the area of the bite. Most people who are bitten were handling the snake. Treat adders with respect and leave them alone.
They are relatively common in areas of rough, open countryside and are often associated with woodland edge habitats. They are less inclined to disappear into the surrounding undergrowth when disturbed and so are probably the most frequently seen of the three British snakes. The best time to see them is in early spring when they emerge from their hibernation dens. By mid-April, the males have shed their dull winter skin and are ready to mate. There is a lot of frenzied activity on warm days, with males looking for females and occasionally wrestling with other males for supremacy. The 'dance of the adders' was thought to be a mating display, but it is a larger male attempting to drive off a smaller one. The snakes writhe around each other in an impressive way, often covering the ground at great speed.
Following mating, females seek out a suitable place to give birth, often travelling over 1 kilometre from the hibernation site. Births take place in late August / early September. Unlike most reptiles, adders do not lay eggs. Young snakes are born about the size and shape of an earthworm, but a perfect miniature of the adult snake.
During the autumn, adult snakes follow scent trails left by other adders to find their way back to the hibernation site, which is often used by many snakes over several years. The young adders tend to hibernate in the area where they were born. Their survival largely depends on the severity of the weather in the following winter.
They usually eat small rodents, such as the short-tailed vole. They will also eat lizards, frogs and newts, and have been seen taking young from the nests of ground nesting birds. When hunting, adders strike swiftly at the prey, injecting a lethal dose of venom. They then wait until the prey dies before starting the often lengthy swallowing process. Like all snakes, adders eat their prey whole, their teeth are designed to grip the prey as it is swallowed. Their jaws are linked by extensible connective tissue so each of the four main bones can move independently. This means they are able to swallow items much larger than the width of their head. The lower ends of the ribs are not joined as in most animals and can also open out considerably. The adder's digestive fluid is amazingly powerful and will digest the flesh and bones of their prey almost completely. Only the hair and teeth of rodents pass through intact. Young adders are threatened by a variety of predators, including birds of prey such as the common buzzard and sometimes adult snakes. Others may be killed and eaten by rodents while in hibernation. Adders are protected by law against being killed or injured through human activity. Most adders are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the spine and an inverted 'V' shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey with a black zigzag. Females are a pale brown colour, with a darker brown zigzag. But some adders are entirely black and can be mistaken for some other species.
Did you know?
Adders go for long periods between meals. Adults eat the equivalent of only 9 voles each year.
Length: males up to 60 cm, females up to 75 cm (most are less)
Weight: males 50 - 60 gm, females 80-100 gm
Lifespan: uncertain, probably up to 20 years
Numbers in Britain: not known
On Sunday 5th May our Ranger Mark Williams will be holding a Bird Walk in the Reserve. We start at the main gate at 10am.
A date for your diary is our Annual General Meeting on Thursday July 18th in the Village Hall, Coppice Lane, Noak Bridge. Doors open at 7pm for 7.30 start. (We will place a reminder in the July Newsletter.)
A gentle memory jog: memberships are due the 1st June - a renewal form is included.