I naively thought that leaving the Neotropics for Northern Europe would reduce my rate of serpentine encounters. Silly, silly me.
Yesterday, while I was waiting for the foresters to start burning down the forest (how often do you get to say that?), I looked down from where I was standing, on the boardwalk leading to the instrument shed where my equipment is located. (Boardwalk because this is Finland, which as far as I can tell is one gigantic boreal forest bog, and boardwalks are brilliant approaches to trails in bogs). And right next to the boardwalk was a snake. A very well-camouflaged snake. He (or she, wouldn't want to be gender biased here) looked just like one of the lichen-covered sticks that litter the forest (bog) floor.
This is a Vipera berus: not particularly lethal (though they apparently give a wallopping painful bite, and do kill older people and young children, and people who are allergic to them - not that you'd know that you're allergic to them, because I don't think 'viper bite' is included in the usual retinue of allergy tests?), not particularly aggressive (though he wasn't as scared of me as I would have liked), but surprisingly interested in eddy flux measurements. He coasted all around the base of our flux tower, before I turned away and then lost sight of him.
But not to worry: this afternoon, walking from the main field station to my measurement site, I came about 20cm from stepping on yet ANOTHER viper. This one was juvenile (about 15-20cm), and light brown with black zig-zags down its back.
That's TWO vipers in as many days. Most people around here have never even seen one in years of research. I have decided that the local viper family is just very interested in my experiment (really, who wouldn't be?), and that as long as they keep out of my mass spec, and I stay off of their tails, we'll get along just fine.