As I drove along the A25 , heading for the heathland of deepest Surrey , I thought to myself , can my lucky streak of finding exciting wildlife keep going ? Little did I know at the time , that the answer to that question was to be yes !
The Heather clad heathland that I arrived at , was bathed in beautiful sunshine , and there began today's adventure . Very little was found initially , apart from the odd Common Lizard and Slow Worm , but when I came across three , perhaps four Adders , including one female , I thought that this could be interesting , and so it turned out . On my first visit to the trio/quartet , all was reasonably calm , which quite surprised me , given the gender mix and the time of year . I left them to do their thing , and searched other areas with very little reward . I made way back to the group , and just saw the end , a matter of seconds of the famous 'Dancing Adder' display . Before I could get the camera out , the two males had disappeared into the thick Heather . Disappointed , I set the camera up on the tripod , and waited . After a good while , a male returned and settled down with the female , and all was quiet . All I could think was , 'why didn't I return sooner ?' I thought , I'll give it ten minutes , then move on . About half way through that time , I spotted movement in the Heather , then the off white and black colouration of a male in breeding colours . The new arrival , gave a wide berth to the incumbent male and his prize , then darted straight in towards them from almost in front of me . The incumbent male then charged out from his passionate embrace , and second 'Dance of the Adders' started , about 3 metres in front of me . The Heather mad it very difficult to see the two males , and the speed of their movement made photography very trying . I checked that the camera was on program 'P' , to enable continuous shooting , and the shutter speed , which in the sunshine was showing 1/500th. of a second , and just hit the button every time they came into view . Hindsight is a great thing , as I should have increased the shutter speed to compensate for the pair's quick movements . Some of the shots came out fuzzy and some didn't manage to get the whole animal in the frame , but all in all , I was very happy with the outcome .
The fuzziness in this shot is in fact Heather branches between them and the camera . The 'Dance' went on for about 3/4 minutes , before the one that I thought was the incumbent male , saw off the intruder , and returned to his female . That's the end of it , I thought , and considered packing things away , when another movement in the Heather , announced the intruder's return . This time much slower , and to begin with , no reaction from the incumbent male . Closer and closer came the intruder , until , the incumbent decided to meet the intruder and stand 'toe to toe' , or should it be 'nose to nose' , with him . They came together like two trains on a single track line , neither one prepared to give way . Without actually touching each other , the intruder turned tail , and was seen off , again , by the incumbent . The brown female can be seen directly behind the incumbent male on the right . I waited a while longer , but everything went quiet , so I left them to it .
I feel very lucky , as this is the third time that I have witnessed the 'Dance of the Adders' . Previously on the Greensand Ridge a couple of years ago , a Dance that lasted for 20 odd minutes in a more open situation , a shot of which I use as the header to my blog , and more of a 'handbag' effort lasting just about a minute a couple of years before that .
I decided that , if this is my lucky day , I would call in at Burnt Gorse , High Elms , and see if the Grizzled or Dingy Skippers had emerged . Yes Phil , I was being greedy again , and no they hadn't . On the track to Burnt Gorse however , I did find my first Red Admiral of the year . No way of telling if this specimen overwintered successfully , as many failed to do because of the long , cold Winter , or this was a migrant from the Continent . On Burnt Gorse four species of butterfly were recorded , Orange Tip ( 3M,1F) , Brimstone (1M) , Peacock (4) , and , down in the sheltered bottom of the slope , a beautiful tawny Comma .
When I got home , Carol said that she had a Holly Blue in the garden , shortly before I arrived . I took the camera and found it flying down the bottom , alighting for a couple of seconds , enabling a poor shot , due to the wind blowing the leaf . Identified as a male , by the small amount of dark colour on the leading edge of the forewing .
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