Trip reports

High-Rise Living: Life In The Tropical Forest, with Nicholas Hammond

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Nick Hammond, our speaker for the last indoor meeting of the season, is a former director of communications at RSPB, and one time editor of its Birds magazine. His talk was entitled High Rise Living; Life in the Tropical Forest. In the first half Nick gave an overview of the structure of a tropical forest from forest floor to canopy, the immense variety of plant and animal life found there and the interdependence of all that lives there. He illustrated the talk with slides of the various elements: giant trees, epyphites living harmlessly on them and making up 25 per cent of the tree's weight, smaller trees struggling for their place in the sun, shrubs, flowers, fruit, mammals large and small, birds, and insects. Particularly impressive were the three largest eagles, Harpy, Crowned, and Philippine, found respectively in South America, Africa, and Asia. How good would it be to see those beauties!

In the second half Nick described how early naturalists Alfred Russell Wallace and Henry Bates travelled to the Amazon rain forest and how their discoveries changed them from collectors of specimens for the rich to early ecologists. Wallace as is widely known, reached similar conclusions to Darwin following a sojourn in the Far East while the lesser known Bates first recognised the phenomenon now known as Batesian Mimicry, where a non threatening species such as the hoverfly evolves to resemble a wasp to deceive its predators.

This was a serious and thought provoking talk delivered in a pleasant and self effacing manner. It was not a photographic extravaganza or travelogue but which informed as well as entertained.

Ken Sutton