Writing about nature and the out-of-doors can sometimes lead to welcome surprises when people bring “specimens” for me to identify.

On one notable occasion, boys brought me a dead adder they had (regrettably) killed in a location where, I am sure, no one knew Britain’s only poisonous snake existed.

They had found it on moorland above Skelmorlie golf course and, having promptly despatched it, wanted to show someone their ‘trophy kill’. I can still remember their excitement as they held the poor thing up by the tail and said: “look what we found!” Although I would have preferred that they hadn’t killed the snake, it was indisputable evidence that perhaps a colony of adders existed on that area of moorland.

I have walked fairly extensively over the Ayrshire / Renfrewshire hills and never seen an adder. Nor have I spoken to anyone who has encountered one.

This one did not die totally in vain as I gave the body to a friend who worked in the zoology department at Kelvingrove museum where it was to be preserved and kept as a specimen.

Insects have also featured in the array of creatures brought to me.

On one occasion I got a call from a woman who said her son had caught what he thought was a “wee bat”. The boy arrived with the specimen in a jelly jar. It turned out to be a large “hawkmoth”.

There are several species of hawkmoth, so called because of their fast flight and sophisticated aerodynamics. One, called the hummingbird hawkmoth, flies and feeds exactly, as the name suggests, like a tiny hummingbird.

The one brought to my office was a poplar hawkmoth, which seems to be relatively common in the Largs area. It ‘plays dead’ when threatened by predators and the mottled brown colour of its wings blend perfectly with leaf litter, giving excellent camouflage.

When it comes to insects, however, I draw the line at cockroaches. A pest control officer once took delight in showing me a boxful of roaches he had taken from an old flat in Greenock. YUCK!