The Monarch Monitoring Project is a long-term study on monarch migration through Cape May, NJ. It is a part of the New Jersey Audubon Research Department, and closely affiliated with the Cape May Bird Observatory.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Field Season Begins Next Week

Next Tuesday, September 1, 2015, marks the beginning of the new field season for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  We'll conduct our driving census of monarchs three times that day, and the census will be conducted every day through October 31.  We will also tag monarchs and conduct a variety of public education and outreach programs.  Our team includes perennial MMP staffers Dick Walton, Louise Zemaitis, and Mark Garland.  Lindsey Brendel returns for a second year as one of our seasonal technicians.  She will be joined by Katie Burns, from coastal Maine, who has been working with bees in California this summer.

Additionally we are also helped by enthusiastic volunteers.  This year we're testing new ideas for studies of monarch migration in South Jersey areas to the north of Cape May.  As noted in the previous post, a series of volunteer training events are planned, and the "Monarch Ambassadors" that we train will be asked to conduct these pilot studies for us.

We're happy to report that the August population of monarchs in Cape May seems pretty good.  A few may be early migrants, but most are behaving like the year's penultimate generation, those whose offspring will migrate to Mexico.  That's clearly the case for the mating pair shown above, who were photographed this afternoon in a West Cape May back yard.  Migrating monarchs have their mating urge delayed until after their long period of winter dormancy in Mexico.

What does this mean for the upcoming migration?  We know better than to make a prediction.  We're always optimistic, but only when the season is over will we have data that will define the season.

Speaking of predictions, we're frequently asked, "When will be the best time to see the monarchs in Cape May this year?"  I wish we knew the answer!  There are usually several peaks between about the 10th of September and the 20th of October, and often the biggest numbers come after the passage of cold fronts, when northwest winds push monarchs into Cape May, but there is absolutely no way to guess which days will see many monarchs and which will see few.  One thing we can predict: as the season progresses we will faithfully report on the monarch numbers in Cape May in this blog and on the project's FaceBook page, Cape May Monarchs.  Please plan to visit Cape May Point at least once during the next two months.  We'll be posting the schedule of our public programs early in September.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New "Monarch Ambassador" volunteer program

We are starting to gear up for the beginning of our 2015 field season, just over a month away.  We will conduct our censuses, public programs, and tagging efforts in Cape May Point, as we've done for over 25 years.  Our field season runs from September 1 through October 31.

This year, however, we have some new plans.  We will conduct pilot studies of migrating monarchs at other locations in southern New Jersey, including Stone Harbor Point and East Point, where we have seen monarch concentrations in previous years.  We're hoping to recruit and train a group of volunteers to help conduct the pilot studies and share information about monarch migration with people they meet while conducting these studies.  Our trained volunteers will be known as, "Monarch Ambassadors."  The research work will involve simple point counts (standing at one designated point for 20 minutes and counting all the monarchs seen during that time) and tagging monarchs with special color-marked tags.

Monarch Ambassadors will need to attend one of our training sessions.  Each lasts about 2 hours, with an hour-long indoor presentation on monarch biology and the work of the Monarch Monitoring Project, and the second hour outside, learning to tag monarchs and to properly record data from point counts and from tagging.  Here's the schedule:

Wednesday, September 2, at 3:00 pm, at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.
Tuesday, September 8, at 1:00 pm, at the Nature Center of Cape May.
Saturday, September 12, at 10:00 am, at the Nature Center of Cape May.
Tuesday, September 15, at 2:00 pm, at the Lower Township Public Library in Villas.

RSVP required: please contact us by e-mail to  Along with the names of all planning to attend, please be sure to let us know which session you plan to attend and make note of any experience you have working with monarch butterflies.  Please include the ages of any potential volunteers under the age of 18.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Work with us next autumn!

We are currently accepting applications for our seasonal Field Technician position.  The job description is below.  Please pass this along to a young biologist, naturalist, or educator who might like to join our team.

Position: Field Technician, Monarch Monitoring Project
Departments: Research and Education
Location: Cape May, New Jersey
Reports to: CMBO Program Director and MMP Director
Job Classification: Fulltime Seasonal

Job Description: FIELD TECHNICIAN for ongoing MONARCH MONITORING PROJECT at New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, Cape May, New Jersey September 1 to October 31. Cape May is renowned as one of the world's great hot spots for migration. NJA fosters the application of sound scientific principles and practices to address conservation issues related to vertebrate and invertebrate fauna, and the natural habitats with which they are associated.

Daily road censuses of migrating Monarchs
Monarch tagging
Data entry
Educating the public about the project and Monarch biology

Experience interacting with the public and excellent interpersonal skills
Enthusiastic and motivated self-starter who is also a strong team player
•      Familiarity with insect ecology a plus, but not required
Willingness to work irregular hours
Careful data collecting and entry skills
Must have own vehicle and a valid driver’s license

Start Date: September 1, 2015 Ending Date: October 31, 2015

Salary: $900/month; housing and reimbursement for gas provided

Application Deadline: July 15, 2015

Please send cover letter of interest, resume, and three references (including email and phone contact info) to Mike Crewe, NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, Northwood Center, 701 East Lake Drive, Cape May Point, NJ 08212, or email:

The New Jersey Audubon Society (NJ Audubon) is a privately supported, not-for profit, statewide membership organization. Founded in 1897, and one of the oldest independent Audubon societies, NJ Audubon is not connected with the National Audubon Society. NJ Audubon is an equal opportunity employer (EOE).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

World Series of Birding Results

The largest source of funding for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project (MMP) comes from the annual World Series of Birding, a fundraising event run by New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory.  Many of us who are involved with the MMP participate on a team we call the "Monarchists."  We have 24 hours to search for birds around Cape May, traveling only by foot or bicycle, competing for the "Carbon Footprint Award."

Birders from the Monarchists team at the South Cape May Meadows.

Our luck wasn't too good this year, and even though we won in 2013 and 2014, this year our total of 111 species fell short of the winning total by 15.  Still, we had a nice day in the field and we have raised a good amount of money to support our monarch butterfly research and education project.  You can read about our efforts on this web page:

There's still time to add your support.  Learn how at the website above, or just visit the Monarchists page on the event website,, where you can make a contribution online.

Thanks to all who have supported the Monarch Monitoring Project through contributions, whether in support of our World Series of Birding team, at the tagging demos in the fall, or through other contributions sent throughout the year.

Our field season starts up on September 1 each year, watch for frequent updates to this blog once our work begins again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Monarchists to Raise Funds at World Series of Birding

On May 9, 2015, dozens of teams of birders will head out into the field to find as many species of birds as possible, each team raising funds for a conservation cause.  Again this year a team known as the Monarchists will be raising money for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.

The team is comprised of active and former volunteers with the MMP.  We compete in the "Carbon Footprint" category, traveling without the use of any motorized vehicle, searching for birds around Cape May traveling only by bicycle or foot.  In 2013 and 2014 we were the winners in this category!

The real winners, however, are the monarch butterflies.  The World Series of Birding is the largest source of funding for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  We ask all fans of our project to learn about this event and to help us raise money to support our research and education efforts, either by spreading the word and/or by making a direct contribution.  See all the details online here:  Please share this link with others who care about monarchs.  Many thanks!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saturday, November 1, 2014

End of Season

Seaside goldenrod is down to its last few flowers, and the monarchs are
gone from the dunes at Cape May Point.  It's starting to look like winter.

It's Saturday, November 1, and the two-month field season for the Monarch Monitoring Project is finished.  For the last 61 days we have conducted our driving census several times each day, providing us with a snapshot of how this year's migration compares to previous years.  We will analyze these data during the off season, but you can see the raw data on our website here.

No monarchs were counted on yesterday's final censuses.  This is as it should be, the monarchs need to be further south by the end of October.  Many have been seen arriving at the monarch reserves in Mexico in recent days.

It's been a terrific field season for our project.  Monarch numbers were up from last year.  Fundraising success in recent years allowed us to hire two assistants this year, and we offer heartfelt thanks to Lindsey Brendel and Angela Demarse for their great work.  We'll miss you here in Cape May and we hope you'll be back soon.

Lindsey Brendel
Angela Demarse

The field season is over, but the work of the Monarch Monitoring Project continues throughout the year.  Now we must assemble all the data from the field season, send all our tagging data to Monarch Watch, and analyze the results of our field season.  Early next year we'll begin preparations for the 2015 field season, we'll work to raise funds for the coming season, and we'll watch for reports of tag recoveries, hoping that a few of the monarchs we tagged this autumn will be found in Mexico or elsewhere along the migratory route.  The frequency of posts to our blog will drop dramatically, but we promise to post promptly if we learn of any tag recoveries.

Thanks to all who have made contributions to sponsor our project.  Thanks to all who have come to our tagging demos or engaged our staff in conversations while we were working in the field.  And thanks to all who are working to project these remarkable butterflies, whether planting a butterfly garden, supporting legislation, educating others, and/or visiting the monarch reserves in Mexico.  You are all part of our team.

Tagging demo, October 3, 2014