Thursday, 8 May 2008

Lochranza to Glen Catacol via Gleann Easan Biorach, Isle of Arran

In search of elusive adders, I walked from Lochranza Distillery (through Gleann Easan Biorach) and descended Glen Catacol (which is a great place to see Golden Eagles).

Glen Iorsa
Glen Iorsa

Common Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)

Huge grey boulders are scattered everywhere on the steep sides of Glen Catacol and the area is fantastic habitat for Adders, Common Lizards and Slow Worms.
Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)
Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)

The Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) is the most Northerly distributed species of reptile and gives birth to live young instead of eggs, an adaptation to the cold climate (its scientific name means 'lizard viviparous').

Further down the valley I found a plump female Adder lying by the side of the path. She began hissing furiously and striking the air, so I kept my distance.

Adders are unusual amongst snakes for their sexual dimorphism: females are brown with darker brown 'zigzag' markings and males are pale grey with black 'zigzag' markings. Although adder bites are rarely fatal for healthy adults (unless you have an allergic reaction), the venom causes nausea, dizzyness, swelling and temporary numbness/loss of mobility of muscles in the vicinity of the bite. Contrary to popular belief, adders only bite as a last resort (usually when picked up/stood upon), so the chances of being bitten are slim.

Later I found another (smaller) Adder, a young female, who was more at ease with my presence.

Adder (Vipera berus) female
Adder (Vipera berus) female

I reached Catacol and walked back to Lochranza along the coastal road. Along this stretch of shoreline I saw some Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) resting on the rocks at the water's edge.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) male

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