The dog’s paw

The streamlet glistens in the sunlight as it trickles over pebbles and stones. The sound of my dog lapping eagerly at the clear water drowns out the quiet tinckle of the flow. He eagerly returns to me with water still dripping off his hanging tongue, padding the hardened ground as he walks. I am just about to send him back into the water when my eye is drawn to the ground he has covered. Right where his paw fell there is a twisted piece of wood with a bold hatched pattern. That pattern is one that is familiar. This is not a piece of wood but a snake. It remains still but as I walk to its side I can see its head and tongue, pronged and waving like a wagging finger chastising us for disturbing it.

The pattern that caught my eye is of a common viper, better known as an adder. This is only the second time I have seen one, and I have contrasting feelings. My dog is still oblivious to it and I want to keep him that way. I can envisage the outcome of an inquisitive sniff. I want to look at this creature and get a photograph, though. With the dog safely down and staying I reach for my camera. As I do so the neck straightens and moves forward, the coils quickly trailing after it until it disappears behind a small wall. Shifting round I can see no signs, only cracks and crevisces between the rocks making the face. Looking now there are no signs that a snake was just here.

Still keen to capture an image, I try a trick. Nearby there is an abandoned farm building where I can retreat and watch the birds. Swallows nesting at the back of the buildings skim the turf of the surrounding slopes and continually twitter as siskin and linnet in the scattered trees give harsher calls. After 15 minutes standing, I walk quietly back to the stream and look over the wall. There at its base is the hoped for bold chevron pattern and now I succesfully get my photograph. Even as I press the shutter she starts to move off again. Within 30 seconds she is back in the crevices, hidden.

Today is a calm, sunny, early summer day. Nearby is Lynn Brenig, one of the largest lakes in Wales. A wind pushes wavelets along its length and creaks trees but here, sheltered, the air is warm. Winter is different, the ground crackles as snow and ice abound, yet this snake will still be here. I have seen no aggression from her today, even when trodden on. She has been shy and required stalking for my best views. Instead of feeling threatened I felt excited and privelaged to share these few minutes with her.



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