Saturday, April 30, 2011

Snakes Alive!

Large crag
I'll get to the snakes at the end of this posting - if you don't like them - don't look.

I forgot to mention last week that we saw three deer in the field by the hairpin bend going up to the village. So La Chasse didn't get them all. Sadly, no one had a camera on them.

We had a storm on Monday night which put out the power just as we were about to watch a DVD of Mike Leigh's latest film Another Year. We sat in the candle-lit dark for about an hour until it was over. The broadband has been playing up since although I pulled out the jacks while the storm was raging. Anyway, the lack of rain was sorted.

Film good, by the way.

Mostly a week of flora and fauna. Jim snapped this moth:

Small Emperor Saturnia pavonia

We also saw another interesting butterfly/moth? on our walk along the nature trail today but so far I have been unable to identify it. There were several flying about in a particular area but wouldn't settle long enough to get a good picture. We will try again.

Several pictures of wild flowers out:

Broom Sarothamnus scopparius -
this well out now all over the site. This view from the rough road over the Broomfield

Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys
Ox-eye Daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi

I make no apology for all these flowers. This diary is a record of all we have done and seen here and the wild flora and fauna are what I am interested in. If you want something more exciting - here come the snakes!

Western Whip Snakes Hierophis viridiflavus mating
We saw a pair of these, behaving just like this as we were sitting on the bench up at Peter's Place, Friday evening. Rufus drew our attention to them - he has got quite good at telling us where snakes are without attempting to catch them - he just stands and barks.

We watched them writhing and waving their heads about for quite a few minutes. I had my camera out and tried to get pictures but we were standing on the edge of the bank peering down into the scrub of the Broomfield and my attempts failed to get anything recognisable. I lifted the above picture off the web.
The Western Whip snake is non-venomous but may bite if handled. It is present in the southern three quarters of France and is difficult to confuse with any other snake in this country. As its name implies it is predominantly  dark green with yellow dashes or bands which are transversal on the main part of its body and are longitudinal towards the tail, although various forms exist depending on the stage of development.  Being up to 2 metres it can be a large snake, prominent eyes with round pupils. It occupies all types of habitat with a preference for dry, quiet areas – open woodlands and land which is left to scrub or fallow, sometimes to be found near rivers or other wet areas. It is an extraordinary hunter; its prey varies with local availability and it will take small mammals, small birds, frogs, lizards etc. It has also been known to eat adders and even its own species. 

The Western Whip is above all else a powerful snake, though normally discreet it can be obstinate and aggressive, thrashing the ground with its tail and hissing when angered, sometimes tilting its head back and then striking and biting with force, it is this force which gives it the ability to overcome its victims but is of no serious concern to humans. It is also an agile climber weaving its way with speed through bushes and hedgerows. 
Hibernation takes place from October until April using spaces in the ground, low cavities in trees, stone walls etc.
Coupling takes place in May and can result in violent fights between males for a female, this can also occur between the sexes. During copulation the partners roll and twist themselves around each other, keeping their heads raised upright. Between 5 and 20 eggs are deposited under stones, old tree stumps or in rotting vegetation in June/July, the young hatching 6 to 8 weeks later.

Don't let this talk of snakes put you off visiting us however. Most snakes are shy, not dangerous and can easily be avoided. More off-putting, to my way of thinking are the insects - there are just too many of those and they are not shy. 
Finished pergola showing hanging chair

1 comment:

  1. I got a great shock when first I saw one of these. It took off, almost vertically up the steep face of a crag, which may have been the one in the photograph. Remarkable, no other animal has quite the same ability to disappear so quickly. People have the same fear of snakes as they do of spiders, but I have never understood this. Mind you Eldest Daughter has just been bitten by something which we suspect was an adder as there were two faint fang marks on her shin and she had to go to hospital with the pain and swelling. No-one seemed to know what it was. But more than a passing bee, evidently.