It is encouraging to see that Amphibian and Reptile Conservation's "Add an Adder" recording campaign (www.adder.org.uk) is still going strong after six years. In this time it has gathered well over 4,000 records of adder sightings - past and present - from members of the public. The website shows a map of recent adder sightings (green dots) and those that are probably now extinct (red dots).
Conservationists, ecologists, herpetologists and others have been raising the alarm bell about the adder's widespread decline for many years. Reports of local declines, and even of county-wide extinctions are well-known. What was lacking, however, was historical data to back up these anecdotal suppositions.
The idea of ARC's Add an Adder survey was to collect memories and otherwise-inaccessible reports of adders (Vipera berus) from people, to help build up a picture of the adder's former distribution in Britain. These might include personal memories, or anecdotal hearsay.
When Add an Adder was launched, many people questioned the validity of unverified records from the public, suggesting that confusion with grass snakes and slow-worms would confound the results. But the indisputable correlation of adder sightings with the British coastline, upland areas, and Scotland - rather than back gardens in southern England - seems to support the veracity of the adder sightings.
And in terms of the supposed loss of adders from certain areas, the distribution of red dots (extinctions) is pretty convincing in places close to urban centres in southern and central England in particular.