Adders, a caterpillar and deer on Dartmoor in February

When we were out 10 Tors training on the 27th and 28th February I was told that one of the teams saw an adder. Very kindly James Beynon has sent me his photographs of the adder. Thanks James.

Adder 2
Look carefully and you can see there are in fact two adders (possibly three?) in the picture

Adder 1
They were found near Great Kneeset at SX594867 at an altitude of  500m. Bearing in mind that this was a very cold day after a very cold night this was quite unexpected. The literature suggests that male adders first emerge around the 14th February on sunny days in the lowlands but to find some at 500m on Dartmoor on such a cold day is noteworthy!

I am not a reptile expert but these animals look like male adders and I just wonder if they are performing the ‘dance of the adders’ where male adders undergo a test of strength – the winner then dominates the territory and mates with a female. I saw ‘wonder’ because this usually occurs in April. Any ideas anyone? (Apparently male adders often bask together – the females emerge in April and then the dance occurs – information via Adam Long)

Fox moth caterpillar
Later in the day near Winter Tor we found this rather moribund Fox Moth caterpillar – a less unusual sighting as Fox Moth caterpillar live between July and April – i.e. they over winter as a caterpillar.

On the way home driving up Six Mile Hill towards Longdown we saw a deer run across the road and go through the hedge. I said to my passenger when you see one deer there will often be another so I slowed the car down and we looked to the left and sure enough we saw a red deer stag with some fine antlers who was indeed about to cross the road too – fortunately he saw us as well and delayed his crossing. Seeing deer is pretty common but seeing a red deer in this part of Devon is more unusual – there are a few red deer on Dartmoor around Fernworthy but the majority of deer on the moor and its woodlands are fallow and roe. I suspect the red deer we saw were from the Haldon Forest population which isn’t far from Six Mile Hill.

One thought on “Adders, a caterpillar and deer on Dartmoor in February

  1. “On the way home driving up Six Mile Hill towards Longdown we saw a deer run across the road and go through the hedge.”
    As I live at the top of Six Mile Hill, close to Two Crosses, I find this very interesting. I have seen deer in the fields around me, but not crossing the road on the hill, though we have come across them in the road at the Dunsford side of the hill.

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