Greetings from the UK!

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Greetings from the UK!

Postby Guy Harris » Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:42 pm

Hi there,

My name is Guy and I've been herping in the UK since a teenager (about 35 years). I've also had experience in North America but look forward to some serious European herping over the next few years. If anyone would like to meet up for herping excursions in the UK or in Europe, I would be more than happy. I look forward to taking part in the forums. PS - I don't have a photo of me but much more attractive!

Image
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Kevin Byrnes » Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:56 pm

Welcome to the forum Guy, nice to have another Brit aboard , looking forward to your posts. That's a nice picture to introduce yourself with, was that from a UK population?
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Guy Harris » Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:43 pm

Hi Kevin - thanks for your welcome.

Yes, this individual was from the Ventnor site on the I-O-W earlier in the year. I'm fortunate enough to have several colonise quite close to me including Abbotsbury and Portland. This was a particularly stunning individual.

Not had much luck with adders this year though. Failed to find any in all of my regular local haunts in south Somerset - very disappointing (and worrying) indeed.
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Berislav Horvatic » Sat Nov 28, 2015 3:42 pm

Guy Harris wrote:Not had much luck with adders this year though. Failed to find any in all of my regular local haunts in south Somerset
- very disappointing (and worrying) indeed.

Shit happens. But regarding your "worrying", I also have the impression that that particular kind of "shit happens"
has been happening too often to my taste as well, quite elsewhere (i.e., in my quarters), so maybe it could be
an (unfortunate) trend after all...? Not just a local one, I mean - or rather - fear.
I remember my friend Ivo Peranić having found some 40 adders within a few hours, at a small but "fruitful" locality,
some years ago. Nowadays if you find a few at the same locality, searching for half a day, you may count yourself
quite lucky. I don't like it at all. It isn't fair.
So, has something been "going on", or rather, going WRONG, or what?
Any opinions/experiences from others?
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Alexandre Roux » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:08 pm

Berislav Horvatic wrote:
Guy Harris wrote:Not had much luck with adders this year though. Failed to find any in all of my regular local haunts in south Somerset
- very disappointing (and worrying) indeed.


I remember my friend Ivo Peranić having found some 40 adders within a few hours, at a small but "fruitful" locality, some years ago. Nowadays if you find a few at the same locality, searching for half a day, you may count yourself quite lucky. I don't like it at all. It isn't fair.
So, has something been "going on", or rather, going WRONG, or what?
Any opinions/experiences from others?


This year was quite catastrophic for vipers (Asp vipers) in my region (and especially on my magic "fruitful" spot) and it is more and more every years.
It seems to be a little bit better for colubrids but I may admit that in the last 5 years I've seen less and less (but I can't say I have been looking for it at the same frequency every year).
I also don't like people to claim "you are lucky to find snakes" because I may be the one to say it in a few years the way it goes...

That is clearly reflecting a pretty bad situation for all the herps in the last years. But that's not new...
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:19 pm

I'm not up to speed with the research results, but you may want to consider disturbance as one variable, especially with vipers.
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Berislav Horvatic » Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:16 pm

Alexandre Roux wrote:That is clearly reflecting a pretty bad situation for all the herps in the last years. But that's not new...

That's just why I've asked about other people's opinions/experiences - how new, how bad, and how
widespread - if at all?
I also don't like people to claim "you are lucky to find snakes" because I may be the one to say it in
a few years the way it goes...

Welcome to the club. At least, you won't be alone.
Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:I'm not up to speed with the research results, but you may want to consider disturbance as one variable,
especially with vipers.

You mean disturbance by US, humans? That' a general argument, but I know my viper "hotspots", I know
the amount of (visible) disturbance to the habitats (actually, not much), but the decline in the number
of vipers seems just not proportional to the amount of disturbance. Of course, who am I to judge how
much of that might be too much for THEM, but still... I see what I see, and I just don't like it.
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Kristian Munkholm » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:47 pm

Berislav Horvatic wrote:
Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:I'm not up to speed with the research results, but you may want to consider disturbance as one variable,
especially with vipers.

You mean disturbance by US, humans? That' a general argument, but I know my viper "hotspots", I know
the amount of (visible) disturbance to the habitats (actually, not much), but the decline in the number
of vipers seems just not proportional to the amount of disturbance. Of course, who am I to judge how
much of that might be too much for THEM, but still... I see what I see, and I just don't like it.


Around here I have no reason to believe there is any significant negative trend in viper numbers. I do suspect human disturbance can be a signinficant factor in terms of sightings, however.

In general I have no problems finding new localities pretty much wherever habitat seems appropriate. This is not becoming harder and numbers I find at new localities are not decreasing.

There is only one area I've visited frequently enough over a sufficiently long period of time to have anything even approaching significant data in terms of the development of individual populations. This is a spot with three small subpopulations in the suburbs of Copenhagen.

Two of them are in woods where logging and reforestation with fast growing pines forces the adders to move around at lot and must have done so for decades, if not centuries.

One of these spots had a seemingly dense population when I discovered it, seemingly, because they were found in an grove of still young pines where a few years earlier they probably would have been spread out across a much larger area. Some 10-14 years ago the trees had grown to a size where sunlight only reached the forest floor along two narrow paths causing the rather few adders to congregate there. A couple of years later as the trees grew larger still and the canopy closed they gradually disappeared. I have no reason not to expect they simply dispersed to other more open areas in the forest as the have probably done many times before, yet to my surprise and disappointment I have not been able to find them. I have heard of a couple of sightings of individuals in this forest over the past couple of years, though.

The second spot, in another nearby forest, had a den some 6-9 years ago with a high concentration of adders in the immediate vicinity in a small clearing right next to a wide path with rather heavy traffic of dog walkers and the like. It became quite well known in the local community and received probably too much attention. This was not negative attention in the sense that the general public showed a positive interest in the adders rather than the opposite. That does not change the fact that the continued disturbance of basking adders by curious humans (myself included, I have become more careful since...) and the trampling down of the ferns around the den may well be the reason why the adders all but disappeared. Increased shading from upgrowth of newly planted trees across the path may also be a factor but in this case it seems to me there should still be enough light so I doubt it. I no longer see quite as many adders in the area as I did back then but I do still see them only now mostly at other, more difficult to reach, spots. I saw rather few this year but I expect that's just an anomaly. Otherwise, numbers have been stable over the past five years or so.

The third subpopulation is in an open area between these two forests. I have followed this population over the past 6-7 years where the habitat has not changed visibly. Numbers have not gone down, in fact it seems I'm seeing more adders now than I was in the beginning but that's probably just down to my increased familiarity with the site. What's interesting, though, is that the adders are moving around - and not just according to season but from year to year - even in this absence of visible habitat change. Again, I can only (albeit speculatively) put this down to increased disturbance, most likely from human observers. I first searched the area after hearing about the population from an acquaintance. At the spot - again, next to a heavily trafficked path - where he had regularly seen good numbers of adders just a couple of years before they were now gone. I then started finding them a couple of hundred meters away at a den also near the path and along the slope south of it. After a couple of years the adders started to disappear from this area as well, moving to the other side of the hill, and north along the railroad. I suspect my liberal attitude towards sharing locality info for probably the easiest to reach from Copenhagen adder population once again meant that the attention from curious humans disturbed the adders enough to cause them to move.

From friends around Denmark I hear complaints about dwindling adder numbers - yet only from the most well known spots with the highest densities. I suspect - though I don't have data to substantiate this - that this is nothing more than a case of the adders relocating from excessive disturbance.

In short, disturbance need not be habitat disruption. In some cases, our actions as herpers may also affect adder populations even if we take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. This effect may be innocuous but to the extent that we cause the snakes to move to - in other respects - lower quality habitats our actions as observers may also be detrimental to individual populations.
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Berislav Horvatic » Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:31 pm

Thanks, Kristian, you really took the trouble...
In short, disturbance need not be habitat disruption. In some cases, our actions as herpers may also affect adder populations even if we take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. This effect may be innocuous but to the extent that we cause the snakes to move to - in other respects - lower quality habitats our actions as observers may also be detrimental to individual populations.

But, do you really think snakes are THAT sensitive and "delicate", not to say "spoilt"? To collectively (?) leave their favourite locality just for the reason that too many people, who happen to be around, make them too "nervous" (or "uneasy")? I don't
know, but it just seems to me a little bit too ... never mind, I can't find the right (& "politically correct") word at the moment.
To quote myself: "Of course, who am I to judge how much of that might be too much for THEM, but still..."
When it comes to people, even in a war, they don't abandon their homes and become refugees for some SLIGHT reasons,
it takes much more than a "mild disturbance" to make them leave everything they have/cherish and "relocate". OK, the
snakes might be more "sensitive" than we humans are, maybe more "sensible" in a way, more "natural", who knows - also,
they have no PROPERTY to abandon, unlike us humans - but still... I don't know.
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Re: Greetings from the UK!

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:06 am

Surely the motives of men are hard to compare with what drives snakes?

It's not just a hypothesis, Bero, but proven for Milos vipers, if I recall correctly.

It may sound far-fetched at first, but to me it seems obvious that a (possibly ridiculously) high level of disturbance may be detrimental, especially in small populations that already suffer different pressures and even more in those who have little or no options to relocate.

I enjoyed Kristian's contribution a lot. From probably one of the most intensively monitored berus populations in Europe, however, I know that in CMR studies the recapture rate is (very) low, making monitoring of population size a delicate affair. In other words, you guys may be right to see declines, but at least with berus I am cautious to draw conclusions without (more) solid data. Maybe Daniel B. can chime in about recapturability. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining to think and talk about, of course. I, for one, am waiting for someone to raise the point about how climate change may be expected to affect our herpetofauna. If so, I'd say berus is an interesting case, no?
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