TAILS, SCALES AND WARTS: Finding Adders in Staffordshire (3rd May 2014)

After spotting several grass snakes in my local patch a few weeks ago, I now wanted to spot Britains only venemous snake, the adder.

So a few weeks ago I went off to a nature reserve in Staffordshire in search of one. Despite hours of searching, I had no luck.

I had read of a place in Yorkshire, Humberhead Peatlands, which is known for its good population of adders. But I wanted somewhere even closer to home. So, after a lot of research, I found a local reptile expert, David Nixon, who had a lot of knowledge and experience  of adders in the Staffordshire area and was willing to help me in my search for an adder. I had been reading his adder diaries on his website ‘Midlands Reptiles’ so felt quite positive he would be able to help.

So I set off early to Cannock Chase and met Dave at 8.30am on Saturday morning. The weather was calm with a temperature of about 13 degrees celcius. The sun was shining and already it was quite warm. Dave was unsure if the weather may be too hot to see a basking adder. But he remained positive and so did I.

* Basking

Adders bask in order to warm up, so mornings are the best time to spot an adder. Good temperatures are between 9 degrees and 28 degrees celcius with intermittent cloud cover. Continual sunshine allows adders to warm up more quickly and therefore bask less frequently. 


As we were walking  through the heaths, I glanced to my left, and there basking on the bank was an adder. I was thrilled. I shouted Dave and he informed me that the brown colouring of this adder showed that it was a female. It is such a rewarding experience to see a wild animal in its natural habitat, especially one that I have wanted to see for a long time. I was in total awe.


* Habitat

Adders prefer heathland, moorland, open woods, meadows and marshes.

Reptiles, particularly snakes are misunderstood by many people. It is no surprise really as they are often portrayed as villians in movies and therefore people have a very negative image of snakes. In fact, adders pose no real threat to humans as long as they are treated with respect.


The adder is not aggressive and usually only bites when alarmed or disturbed. Bites can be very painful and can cause swelling, but are rarely fatal. However, medical attention is definitely required.

After over 3 hours of searching, Dave spotted 4 more adders. Three were female and the fourth was a male. One of the females had freshly sloughed her skin.

A freshly sloughed female.

A freshly sloughed female.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the male adder. Dave spotted him but he quickly slithered away into the moss before I caught sight of him. Despite our best efforts of creeping around the site where Dave had spotted the male adder, he did not reward us with his presence again.

* Male and Female Adders

Adders have a dark zig zag pattern running along their back. In males this is usually black in colour and in females it is brown.

adder7 adder2 adder3 adder4 adder7 adder6

Thank you to Dave for helping me in my mission to find my first ever adder.


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