Friday, 2 September 2011

A black Adder

Whilst assessing a Duke of Edinburgh's Award group in June, I chanced across this Adder (Vipera berus) close to a track in the eastern Cairngorms.  At first glance it looked like a mountain bike tyre had been discarded at the side of the track.  Adders have the most northern distribution of any snake as well as being the UK's only venomous snake.  They are relatively common in the Cairngorms if you know where to look, but this one is a bit unusual in that it is almost completely black.

Melanistic individuals are well known and recorded but this was a first for me.  The usual colouration is olive and buff shades almost to yellow with a characteristic diamond pattern on the back.  Although very dark, the diamond pattern is still visble and was actually more prominent than this image shows.  At about 80cm this was a good sized Adder, I guessed at it being a female as they are larger than the males.  I kept a respectable distance so as not to cause any disturbance; and also because the rare occurrences of Adder bites are said to be very painful! 

After taking a couple of pictures I moved quietly away, well pleased with my encounter with this beautiful creature.


  1. The last one I saw was on Mull, slithering out from under the tent I had just unfurled on top of it!
    Mind you, that was less worrying than the encounter with a Black snake in Australia - longer than me. Thicker too probably!

  2. Hi Will, at least it got out from under your tent before you lay on it! I think I'd have taken the appropriate steps if i'd have met the Australian Black snake - bloody big ones in the opposite direction!

    all the best