Over the last decade I have been fascinated by the search for the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the forests of the south-eastern United States. There have been tantalising sightings suggesting the bird might remain at large, but many are skeptical, believing it to have become extinct.
Yesterday evening myself, 2 Ians, Rob & Ashley engaged in a search for a creature that is not quite so famous: the Isle of Wight Wave (Idaea humiliata). The Isle of Wight Wave used to inhabit at least one vegetation-covered ledge on the chalk cliffs below Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight before the ledge fell into the sea in 1931 and it wasn't seen again. It's still found on the continent, this photo coming from a German website with a series of images here:
We've talked about an evening searching for the Isle of Wight Wave for a few years now but, this year, Rob & Ian made it happen, working closely with the National Trust and the Coastguard.
Having examined the images on Google Maps, we set ourselves up on the cliff top above the location of two well-vegetated areas. The main kit consisted of 4 bright LED lights suspended over the cliff face on an extendable fishing road with a Mercury Vapour bulb trap set back from the cliff. The idea was (and this was Ian's idea and set-up) that any moths on the ledges would be drawn to the light from the LEDs and then be attracted across to the main MV light where we were sitting safely well back from the cliff edge.
One of the things that really excited me was the large numbers of Hoverflies that began to appear as soon as the trap was turned on:
The majority seemed to be Syrphus vitripennis, with the Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) - both noted migrants - reaching double figures, too. At one point I counted over 50 in sight, and that doesn't take account of any that had settled down behing the egg trays or which may have flown off!
At one point, soon after 11pm, we began to notice the tell-tale, pin-prick lights of lots of Glow Worms in the grass all around us, Wordsworth's famous 'earthbound stars':
In conclusion, I'm pleased to report that we actually did get one Isle of Wight Wave, though not exactly the one we were hoping for: