Heather Camouflage. Vipera berus or Pelias berus, Common Adder, Balloërveld, Gasteren, Drenthe, The Netherlands
All right, yes! You want to keep your eyes peeled and step gingerly when you make your way across or even along the edges of the Balloërveld south of Groningen near Gasteren in Drenthe. Of course you can traipse along one of the holloways, those sunken lanes dating back to prehistoric times. But then it’s still wise to look carefully in front of your feet if you venture up their beheathered shoulders for a look across the ancient Celtic Fields. These are the favorite haunts of the Common or European Adder, Vipera berus or Pelias berus.
In just over an hour’s walk the other day we counted almost a score of these vipers basking in the bright, early-Spring sun. Some alone, others in pairs. Males and females alike. Some stretched out languidly on the bare sands, others in loops, and a variety coiled and camouflaged in still Winter-dry heather. Beautifully gleaming zigzagging brown and gray, orange eyes on the alert for any tasty morsel that might come along. I think this photo is of a Lady Adder.
‘Vipera’ goes back on Latin words denoting the fact that our adders bear live young instead of laying eggs. ‘Pelias’, an alternative name, is eponymous of the personalised spear of Achilles cut from an ash tree growing on Mount Pelion in Thessaly. In other words, these vipers can strike quickly and surely like that Mythological Spear. But Pelias berus’s strike though said to be painful is seldom fatal. The word ‘berus’ – Neolatin, say some - still has me guessing. Can’t find any exact information about it in my lexicons; only that there is thought to be some kind of connection to a grasssnake, Natrix natrix. Anyone out there in the know?