Spring isn't quite here yet, and there's undoubtedly plenty more cold miserable weather to come, but there are already signs of the reptiles waking up. Reports have come in today from Chris Dresh (ARC Dorset Field Officer) of a sand lizard at Great Ovens Hill and an adder at Lytchett Heath in Dorset. Reports of early adders have also come in from Gower in South Wales and Anglesey in North Wales.
All it takes are occasional breaks in the weather, with sunny days hovering around 9 or 10 degrees centigrade. This is plenty warm enough to bring out the first male adders from hibernation; hence the adder monitoring season starts about now, mid-February, in Dorset.
Each year since 2005, the "Make the Adder Count" project (MTAC), coordinated by ARC, has been encouraging surveyors to go out to sites where they know adders are present, and to count the number of adders they see. Ideally, the surveyor makes four or five visits over the course of the spring, and tries to make a thorough walk over all the likely adder basking places each time. In this way, a reasonable picture of the population size is gathered.
Around 100 sites are monitored in this way each year, gathering a vital dataset that will help us determine whether adders are declining as much as many of us fear they are. CGO Ecology monitors five sites voluntary in the Bournemouth area, all of them small populations. At least one of them seems to have declined drastically in recent years.