Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Our blog has moved to a new location: https://njaudubon.org/category/monarch-monitoring/
For those of you who still connect to this page however, here is a blog post for Sept. 20, 2021:
We are nearly three weeks into the field season for the Monarch Monitoring Project, and on Sunday (Sept. 19) we started to see the season’s first major influx of monarchs into Cape May Point. We also conducted our first three tagging demos on Friday through Sunday, with good attendance each day.
|Seasonal Field Naturalist Kyra Madunich at a tagging demo|
Tagging demos will continue each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 10, each held at 2:00 pm under the east picnic shelter at Cape May Point State Park. No reservations are required, and no fee is charged, though contributions to support our program are accepted. During the following weekend, Oct. 15 – 17, we will have demos at noon at the Cape May Convention Hall as part of the New Jersey Audubon Cape May Fall Festival, details on our website: njaudubon.org. We’ll then have one more weekend with tagging demos, Oct. 22 – 24, when due to the shortening day length our demos switch to 1:00 pm.
|Field Naturalist Madison Null teaches at the demo|
You can meet one of our researchers on Mondays through Thursdays as well, from now until October 21, by meeting at Cape May Point’s Triangle Park at 11:00 am. These are not formal projects, just opportunities to meet a member of our team and learn a bit about our work. Our researcher may be working on garden maintenance, perhaps tagging monarchs, or otherwise working on one of the many tasks involved with our project. One thing for sure – they’ll be happy to answer your questions about monarch biology and about the work we conduct.
|Field Coordinator Louise Zemaitis shows visitors how to tag a monarch|
Will Sunday’s influx of monarchs into Cape May Point continue through the week? We wish we knew, but unfortunately there’s no way to predict. One thing for sure: there will be at least a few monarchs here every day until late October, and maybe even early November. On some days there will be lots and lots, we just don’t know which days that will happen. So come often, enjoy everything that Cape May has to offer, and keep your fingers crossed, hoping to catch a day when monarchs seem to be absolutely everywhere.
|A young visitor delights in a tagged and released monarch|
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Sunday, December 6, 2020
UPDATE: Current high bid is $450.
SILENT AUCTION! This handmade quilt with a monarch butterfly motif has been donated to the Monarch Monitoring Project to help raise funds for our project. The artist is Dale Watson, an accomplished quilt maker and volunteer with our Project. The quilt, which measures 64 x 76 inches, will go to the highest bidder on Tuesday, December 15, as of 2:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time. We will promptly ship the quilt as soon as the donation is received (or we can deliver personally if the high bidder is in Cape May County). Opening bid is $100. Place your bid via a private message on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CMMonarchs, (preferred), or via e-mail to email@example.com. Send us the amount of your bid, along with your name, e-mail address and phone number. We will post updates on the bidding here on our blog and on the Facebook page.
|Here's the quilt, measuring 64x76 inches|
Like many others, our project has fallen short of our fundraising goals this year, primarily because we were unable to offer our usual public programs. Our primary expenses are the salaries of the two young naturalists we hire for our fall field season each year, along with tags and field equipment. If you don't win the auction but still wish to contribute, send a check payable to NJ Audubon with "Monarch Project 024" on the memo line, to CMBO-CRE, 600 N Delsea Drive, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. Thanks to all who support our work!
|Quilt artist Dale Watson visiting the|
Cerro Pelon Sanctuary in Mexico, 2018.
Please share with other monarch enthusiasts!
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Our field season runs from September 1 to October 31, and in some years we see very few monarchs after about October 20. Big numbers of migrating monarchs arrive to the winter colony sites right around the beginning of November. Since those colonies are 2000 miles away from Cape May, it makes sense that most monarchs should have passed through this area weeks earlier. Early last week we saw a few days with cold, windy, and rainy weather, with reports of freezing temperatures and snow from northern New Jersey right up through all of New England. Monarchs don't survive prolonged freezes, so we figured the migration was over. For the last several years we have continued to conduct our census into November as a test. We decided to do that again this year, but when there were no monarchs to be seen during the cold weather -- for a couple of days the census counts were all zero -- we figured our season was truly finished.
|Monarch on lantana in Cape May Point, 11/6/20|
Then the weather changed, and suddenly we came into a spell of warm, sunny days. And monarchs were back! At first it was just a few, but numbers quickly grew. It's nothing like the big numbers of early October, but it's still a surprise. Our seasonal naturalists finished their work at the end of October, but we still have volunteers in town, and collectively we have tagged more than 200 monarchs over the last three days.
|Monarch tagged at Cape May Point 11/8/20|
We're also curious about where these November monarchs have come from. Some that we are seeing are worn or even tattered, suggesting they've been around since before the early November storms, and they might not be fit enough to even try to migrate away from Cape May. We are also seeing some that are pristine, looking very fresh. We know that there are late caterpillars each year, and we suspect that as long as the weather permits, there will be newly emerged monarchs entering the population. We know that they can't have come from terribly far north of here, for the freezes of early November in much of the northeast would have been fatal to any remaining monarchs, whether they were still caterpillars or if they had metamorphosed into the chrysalis or adult stages. So it's our guess that our November monarchs began their lives in southern New Jersey or southeastern Pennsylvania.
As long as the monarchs are still here, we will continue to conduct our censuses and we will keep tagging some of the monarchs that are in Cape May Point. When we are tagging, we often attract curious onlookers, which gives us the chance for an impromptu lesson into monarch biology and conservation. If you're in Cape May Point while our warm November weather continues, and if you see one of us out there with a butterfly net, don't hesitate to ask about our work, we're always eager to talk about monarchs.
|Project Director Mark Garland gives an impromptu lesson about monarchs, 11/8/20|
|Releasing a newly tagged monarch, 11/8/20|
We have started to compile the season's tagging data, but our annual summary will have to wait until we are truly finished with tagging for the year. Rain is expected to come later this week, but it's predicted to stay relatively warm, so perhaps we'll keep seeing (and tagging) monarchs for another week or more. When we finally finish, we'll report back on the total number tagged by our team in 2020.
Thursday, November 5, 2020
|Monarch nectaring on seaside goldenrod, Cape May Point|
Perhaps the most important parts of the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project is the census that we conduct. Our census is modification of a technique known as a "Pollard Transect," whereby a specified route is traveled on a regular basis and butterflies counted by the observer while traveling. Our census is conducted daily from September 1 to October 31, and consists of a slow drive along a 5-mile route that leads from the west end of New England Road to Alexander Avenue in Cape May Point. One observer drives at roughly 20 miles per hour and counts all of the monarchs observed along the route. The census is conduct three times a day from September 1 to October 15, and then twice a day from October 16 to 31. The number of monarchs seen along the route and the time of travel are recorded and then calculated to monarchs observed per hour. These data are used to compare one year to another. This census has been faithfully conducted every year since 1992, giving us 29 years of data. Our data are summarized on a weekly and annual basis in this chart:
|Small roost of monarchs at Cape May Pt. State Park, Oct. 5, 2020|
|Monarchs roosting in ivy at Cape May Point, October 11, 2020|
Sunday, November 1, 2020
The 2020 Field Season for the Monarch Monitoring Project wrapped up on Saturday, October 31 -- our field season runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 each year. We have started to compile the data and will report back to our followers in a few days, but we'll take a few minutes now to reflect on the season. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually everything in all of our lives for most of the year, and that was true for our project as well. Well into the summer it wasn't clear if we could run the project at all, or if we could hire seasonal naturalists. Fortunately we found ways to take all of the appropriate precautions and continue to gather data and to hire two naturalists for our two-month season. Thanks to the generosity of James & Teresa Knipper, who made an apartment available to us, we were able to hire one naturalist from out of the region. And in the second bit of good fortune, we found a great candidate for the second position living right here in Cape May County. We introduced them both to our readers before the season began, and now we want to thank them for a job well done.
Jack McDonough is a remarkable young naturalist who seems to be genuinely in love with every aspect of natural history here in his home county. He grew up exploring the Belleplain State Forest of northern Cape May County, and while he is still a teenager, he has an astounding knowledge of our area's plants and animals. He brought that enthusiasm for natural history to work every day, and while we had many fewer opportunities than most years to engage in educational outreach, Jack still managed to educate and excite the people he would meet while working around Cape May Point. He's also a very skilled photographer, and he is assembling a set of photos for the use of those involved with the project in future years. Watch for an upcoming book on the natural history and ecology of Cape May County that he's working on.
Katherine "Kat" Culbertson wouldn't have been available to work with our project had 2020 been a normal year. She was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Peace Corps to bring everyone back home -- she had been scheduled to keep working over there until 2021. With plans to begin graduate school in the fall of 2021, she was suddenly left with a gap in her plans, and to our good fortune she found our project and accepted the job on short notice. Her strong academic background from Harvard University put her in a great position to work with some of the data that we have gathered over the project's 30 year history -- and it looks like a scientific publication will result from her work. Kat, like Jack, was a great ambassador for monarchs in our educational programs and the many informal contacts that happen when you walk around Cape May Point with a butterfly net.
Our project would not be able to continue without the hard work of our seasonal naturalists. We offer a huge amount of thanks (and a few very modest paychecks) to both Jack and Kat for the great work that they both accomplished. We also benefit from the work of many volunteers who help with our tagging, and most importantly, from donors who make contributions throughout the year, whether "adopting" one of our tagged monarchs, contributing to our "Monarchists" team in the annual World Series of Birding fundraiser, or making other donations. We run a vigorous program on a very small budget -- the salaries of our seasonal naturalists are the biggest expense -- and this year we missed out on the funds that are generated annually as part of our tagging demos at Cape May Point State Park. Very big thanks to all of you who have made contributions in the past, and if you're in a position to make a contribution this year, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how you can help.
|Monarch feeding on Mexican sunflower in Cape May Point|