Snake eyes

Adder (c) Jon Hawkins

During mating season you may be lucky enough to see 'dancing adders', where two males square off against each other before the victor pairs off with the female. More often than not though, an adder encounter will be the sight of these diamond-backed reptiles basking in the spring sunshine, cryptically hidden amongst the vegetation.

WHERE CAN I SEE THEM?

Skipwith Common and Allerthorpe Common - both near York are remaining fragments of a lowland heath that once stretched right across the Vale of York and supports a healthy adder population. Look out along south facing slopes or sandy, open banks or paths.

Download the Skipwith Common leaflet from Natural England here.

WHEN SHOULD I GO?

Visit early on a sunny morning between February and April and you are almost guaranteed great views of adders basking in the morning sun. For a chance to see dancing adders, visit during the breeding season which runs from the latter half of April to the first half of May.

WHAT ELSE CAN I SEE AND DO WHILST I'M THERE?

The adders' prey the common or viviparous lizard can also be found here, either basking in early morning or seen scuttling into the heather at high-speed. Nightjars can sometimes be heard 'churring' in spring, and heathland and bog plants like cinquefoil and cotton grass are also found at the heath. Summer sees a burst of purple heather, and wet areas attract dragonflies like our smallest, the black darter, and larger species like the golden-yellow four-spotted chaser.

SAFETY ADVICE: Adders are our only venomous snake, however they are naturally elusive by nature and will not attack unless as a last means of defence. You can easily enjoy observing adders from a safe distance (and with dogs on a lead), however you should not attempt to touch or provoke an adder at close range.If photographing adders, always follow the Nature Photographers Code of Practice.