Make the Adder Count

Lying out period (national): February -> May

Optimum time for counts: March -> April

Make the Adder Count encourages experienced observers to gather data in a standardised way (by making at least three and, ideally, five or six, counts of snakes) so that information may be pooled to build a picture of trends in adder populations nationally.This survey aims to encourage springtime counts of adders, with the objectives of informing local conservation projects and gathering a long-term surveillance dataset (recording started in 2005).

How it works

Please read the survey guidelines carefully, to find out when and how to carry out your survey and other important information.

Read the Survey Guidelines


or download the docSurvey Guidlines

Submitting your count data

Once you have completed your counts, the easiest way to submit your survey is by filling in our online form.

Fill in the Survey Form


or download a docSurvey Form

Part A : Count Data

Please read the Survey Guidelines carefully before starting to fill in this form.

Please provide at least three counts and ideally five or six of all adult adders seen at your site. Breaking down counts into males and females is helpful, but should be attempted only if you are sufficiently confident in being able to sex snakes visually, from a distance, without disturbing them.

Using the form below you can submit all of your counts at the same time, or if you prefer you can fill in a new form after each field survey (please make sure you use the same Survey Site Name if submitting as seperate counts).

Surveyor

Survey Area

Records:

# Date Time Grid Reference Species Details Quantity Photos
+
adder (Vipera berus)
 

Where the adders were an aggregation or dispersed (see notes)


What's this?

Notes: Any additional information which might help us to verify your record

Part B : Site Information

This section refers to the area within which the count site is located.

1. Have you submitted data from this site in previous years?No need to complete the section below if there is no change from as previously reported

2. Does the site have any conservation designation(s)? (Tick one or more)

3. How big is the site?

4. What best describes how the count site is connected to other adder sites/populations?

5. Questions about bracken Leave blank if uncertain how to complete this section

Bracken is a common feature of adder sites - but is also regarded as invasive and hence sometimes targeted for control. To quantify the incidence of bracken on adder sites please could you circle the DAFOR score that best quantifies abundance of bracken vegetation cover:

Dominant
(50-100%)
Abundant
(30-50%)
Frequent
(15-30%)
Occasional
(5-15%)
Rare
(< 5%)
Bracken in immediate area where you have seen your adders
Bracken abundance within the wider site

6. Indicate if you think there are any factors affecting the population at this site Tick one or more boxes to indicate whether the factors are affecting the population in a positive or negative manner, or indicate if no threat is known.

Positive Negative
Building development
Agricultural changes
Forestry operations
Fire
Public pressure through disturbance*
Persecution (killing or injury)
Predation - cat or other (please specify in comment box below)
Neglect/succession
Habitat management
Habitat fragmentation / isolation
Introduction (development mitigation)
Introduction (conservation)
Other factor (please specify in comment box below)
No threat known
* Public pressure through disturbance refers to activities that may disturb the adders themselves - not their habitat. This category might include recreational activities such as dog-walking or mountain-biking.
Back to Part A: Count Data

Survey Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in Make the Adder Count. These notes are to be used with the recording form.

About Make the Adder Count

This survey aims to encourage springtime counts of adders, with the objectives of informing local conservation projects and gathering a long-term surveillance dataset (recording started in 2005).  Make the Adder Count encourages experienced observers to gather data in a standardised way (by making at least three and, ideally, five or six, counts of snakes) so that information may be pooled to build a picture of trends in adder populations nationally.

When to make the count

Lying out period (national): February -> May

Optimum time for counts: March -> April

The adder counts should be carried out during the springtime ‘lying out’ period, when adders are basking to build up their reserves after hibernation, and especially within the optimum time window spanning March and April. The exact date when local adder numbers are at their peak will depend on weather and geographic location. Adders are likely to be active earlier in the south and west, than they are further north and east. The lying out period and optimum time for counts, locally, will fall somewhere within the range given in the box above. Timing of site visits will rely on your judgement, based on local field experience. The counts will be used as an index of population size and should be made when you feel that the greatest number of adders is likely to be visible. Hence, this project demands a good deal of field experience of participants.

Contacts

If you do not have experience of adder or reptile surveys but would like to become involved in surveying reptiles, then your local volunteer amphibian and reptile group (www.arguk.org) may be a good point of contact to find out more about what is going on in your area. 

For further information, or additional survey forms, please contact Angela Julian, email: info@arguk.org

Data protection and copyright agreement

As with all wildlife recording/monitoring programmes, the success of the project hinges on sharing the data collected. We need to hold some personal data (your name and contact details) but they will be used only for the purposes of the Make the Adder Count project, and will not be shared outside of the two project partners: Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK (ARG UK), and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC). However, count data may be relayed to other conservation projects or recording schemes, should there be a clear conservation benefit from doing this.

Signing the data protection and copyright agreement confirms that:

  • You are willing to allow us to keep your personal data for use by the Make the Adder Count project only. You may remove your details at any time by request. Personal data will not be shared with third parties.
  • You are willing to let us pass on the data you provide to others, where there is a clear conservation benefit. This might include passing on site records to biological record centres or other recording schemes.
  • Should you prefer not to share details of the site, please tick the ‘Confidential site’ box. If you tick this box, your site may still appear on a low-resolution dot map, but the exact location details will be kept confidential.

Site confidentiality

To mark your records as confidential when using the online form, please click the 'Mark these records as sensitive (advanced)' link below the Record table and tick the checkbox.

To share information and provide general feedback, a summary of the data collected will be sent to participating surveyors.  The data summary may include a dot map to show the distribution of survey sites and summary statistics.  The summary will not include exact site location information. However, this information will be relayed to survey participants (subject to informal screening) should they request such information for conservation purposes.  If you feel that, for reasons of site security, you do not wish to reveal the location of your site to other surveyors, then please tick the Confidential site box.  If you tick this box, your site may still appear on a low-resolution dot map, but exact location details will be kept confidential.

Count site details

Adders often spend the winter hibernating communally at sites referred to as hibernacula or hibernation sites. They emerge in the spring to bask, during a 'lying out' phase. During this period the animals usually bask close to, or on the surface of, their winter quarters, for a period of days or weeks. They are relatively visible at these springtime aggregation sites – where counts can be made. These sites are sometimes associated with readily identifiable features, such as a sunny embankment, fallen tree root ball, or similar.

Site number: If you know of several aggregations within a single, larger site, then please use separate recording forms for each, and give them sequential numbers on the recording form (e.g. ‘Wildwood Forest 1’, ‘Wildwood Forest 2’ etc.).

In most cases counts will correspond to single hibernation sites/aggregation areas. However, not all adders spend the winter communally. Some individuals may hibernate singly and sometimes no obvious communal hibernation/aggregation sites can be found. In cases where adders are dispersed rather than aggregated, then observations of newly emerged adders can still be contributed if the observer follows the same route, such as a regular walk, each time a count is made. This is important if trends are be monitored over time. Such a ‘dispersed’ count should be indicated by ticking the relevant box.

Count data

The online form allows you to enter more detail to your records (time, exact location, lifestage etc.). You are welcome to enter this extra detail if you have it, or simply choose 'not known' for those and enter just your count data.

A count is the number of adult adders you see on a single site visit. Counts should be made when you think the greatest numbers of adders will be visible. Hence, this survey relies on your experience in selecting optimum weather conditions and appropriate times, during the February to May window.

We would like you and/or your colleagues to make at least three and ideally five or six counts (survey visits) to each site. If you make more survey visits, then please submit these additional counts as well.

It is important to note that:

  • Counts should be made without disturbing the snakes (disturbance is regarded as a threat to many populations).
  • There is no need to closely approach snakes or an aggregation site (binoculars may be helpful).

Information about the wider site

This section allows you to note any factors that you think may be affecting (positively or negatively) the population of adders at your count site.  These factors may affect the population at any time of the year – not solely when the adders are at the count site.  This information may be useful, even if you cannot collect count data, but leave this section blank if you are uncertain or if you have reported these factors in previous years.

Factors affecting the population

This section allows you to note any factors that you think may be affecting (positively or negatively) the population of adders at your count site. These factors may affect the population at any time of the year – not solely when the adders are at the count site. This information may be useful, even if you cannot collect count data, but leave this section blank if you are uncertain or if you have reported these factors in previous years.

Counts from previous years

If you have counts of adders from previous years, that have not previously been submitted, we would be interested in these, too. However, please note that these data will not be relayed to other surveyors. They will be used for this project only. Please report the single highest count for each year.

Health and Safety for Surveyors

Adders are venomous snakes and should be treated with caution.  Adder counts should be carried out only by experienced or adequately trained persons.  This survey does not involve either handling or closely approaching snakes.  Observations can be made from a distance and ideally without disturbing the adders.  Binoculars may be useful.  Making counts of adders, as described here, is a relatively safe activity.  However, the following checklist of health and safety precautions must be adhered to in order to participate in the adder count:

  • Work with a partner or use a lone-worker system (inform someone of your whereabouts and expected time back from the field and have a check-in arrangement).
  • Do not approach adders closely.
  • Do not disturb or attempt to handle adders.
  • Be cautious approaching an aggregation site – individual adders may disperse onto your approach route.
  • Do not walk on, or climb over, an aggregation/hibernation site.
  • Wear protective footwear – wellington boots are ideal.
  • Wear clothing appropriate for the outdoors.
  • If you are working in an area where Lyme disease may occur, please take appropriate precautions (www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk)
  • Ensure that you have land owner permission to be on the site

…and the Wildlife

Snakes, especially adders, may be subject to (illegal) persecution or even collection for captivity.  To minimise threats to adder populations do not unnecessarily reveal aggregation locations to the general public, or draw attention to them.  Should someone ask what you are doing, it is best to give a general answer such as bird-watching (and that you have permissions where relevant).

Adders are sensitive to repeated disturbance – so please keep this to a minimum during counts.

Avoid disturbance of nesting birds – liaise with site managers.

Thanks to Patsy Wood Trust110211 Patsy Wood Trust logo bw and Clark Bradbury Charitable Trust

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