Saturday, 22 September 2007

Adding some more wildlife photos...

Today I achieved a lifetime's ambition by seeing a pair of adders in the wild. September is a good time for spotting snakes in England, as the weather has begun to get a little cooler and they are more sluggish. Although adders are poisonous, and a bite should always be treated seriously, there have only been 12 deaths from adder bites in the last 100 years. Snakes are far more frightened of people than we realise, and they will escape at the first opportunity.

I do like reptiles; I think they're really beautiful, and when, eventually, these two slithered off it looked as though someone had poured them away like water. Adders in England hibernate each winter, and a lot of them may use the same place. They don't lay eggs; they give birth to live young.

There are two very good websites I can recommend:

And I've just discovered that snakes don't hibernate, they brumate... For information on this and diapause, estivation, and torpor, go to

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Frigate birds and fruit bats

I have been to Mexico this past week, birdwatching and visiting the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. It’s the first time I’ve returned to Central America since I went to Costa Rica and had the inspiration for The Divide, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. The pelicans and the frigate birds were the most memorable sightings, soaring over the hotel with an elegance and an expertise that left me awestruck.

The most exciting part of the trip was snorkelling in an underground river system, accessed through a cenote, which is a sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. As you go further in the caves are decorated with the most exquisite stalactites and stalagmites, and cave swallows and fruit bats make their homes in the rocky roof.

I was very impressed by the organisers ( who are committed to eco-tourism and supporting sustainable development for the Mayan people who live there today. You are not allowed to swim if you’re wearing insect repellent, suntan lotion or perfume, as it pollutes the water. My guide, Markus, was a turtle expert. We kayaked out to a reef and swam in the Caribbean with loggerhead turtles, parrotfish and a stingray! And as a final treat, in the airport gardens, I saw a pair of Morpho butterflies. Those of you who’ve read The Divide may remember the line on page 10… A Morpho butterfly the size of a tea-plate, its wings the most astonishing metallic blue…