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.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

We're hiring for the fall

Applications are now being accepted for our two seasonal Field Naturalist Intern positions, work that runs from late August into early November.  The full job description is below.  Further down we've included a few photos from recent years to provide a glimpse of the work involved.

Position: Field Naturalist Intern, 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 NATURALIST INTERN for ongoing MONARCH MONITORING PROJECT at New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, Cape May, New Jersey August 24 to November 7. 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
·         Maintain display of monarch caterpillars and chrysalides

      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, clean driver’s license
      Must be able to lift and carry 25 lbs as needed

Start Date: August 24, 2017                                  Ending Date: November 7, 2017

Salary: $1000/month; housing and reimbursement for gas provided

Application Deadline: June 20, 2017

Please send cover letter of interest, resume, and three references as a single pdf document (including email and phone contact info) to:  New Jersey Audubon (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).

Monarch tagging
Tagged monarch

Monarch tagging demo at Cape May Pt. State Park
Teaching children about monarch migration
Young ones are intrigued by close-up views of monarchs

Display of caterpillars and chrysalides at the Northwood Center

Thursday, May 11, 2017

World Series of Birding Results

The Monarchists Team found 126 species of birds plus 8 species of butterflies during the World Series of Birding competition on May 6th.  This fundraising event serves as the primary source of funding for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  It's not too late to make your contribution!  See details here:

Thanks to all who have made contributions in support of our efforts!

The Monarchists and supporters around the midpoint of the World Series of Birding.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Support monarchs through the World Series of Birding

The 2016 CMBO Monarchists team
in the World Series of Birding
The 34th annual World Series of Birding will be held on Saturday, May 6, 2017.  The CMBO Monarchists team will return for our sixth year.  Again we will compete in two categories, eligible for the Carbon Footprint Award (no motor vehicles) and for the Cape Island Cup (searching only on Cape Island, the area south of the Cape May Canal).  We had been on a winning streak, earning the Carbon Footprint Award in 2013 and 2014 and the Cape Island Cup in 2012, but luck wasn’t with us in 2015, when we ended up finding just 111 species.  We did much better in 2016, with 145, but competition was fierce and we didn’t win.

    Most importantly, however, we raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, a research and education project of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory.  The Monarchists team will be veterans from the last few years, with Louise Zemaitis (Captain), Meghan Walker Hedeen, and Michael O’Brien.  Longtime team members Lu Ann Daniels and Mark Garland will each miss the event this year, but each will still help with the fundraising effort. We are fortunate to have many other helpers.

    The World Series of Birding is a friendly bird-finding competition that takes place each May in New Jersey.  The Carbon Footprint category is in just its ninth year, and the award is given to the team that finds the most birds without using a motor vehicle.  Our team will walk and ride bicycles around Cape May, hoping for a day when migrants are abundant.  While it’s not part of the formal competition, we also count the number of butterfly species we find.  Sponsors can choose to pledge for butterflies and/or birds.

     Once again this year donors have the option to make pledges online.  Please visit our team’s page on the World Series of Birding website and you can make your pledge or contribution here.  You can also do it the old-fashioned way by sending a check (details at the bottom of the page).

    We are hoping to find more than 120 species of birds by sight or by sound around Cape May on May 6, plus 10 or more species of butterflies.  Think we can do it?  Check this site after the event for the results.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November Surprise!

Our field season runs from Sept 1 through Oct. 31, and by the end of that period the monarch migration is usually over.  Monarchs begin to arrive on the winter grounds around the end of October, and that's the case this year (see here).  In early November we're usually compiling the data, cleaning out the gardens, and putting away the nets and other project equipment.

This year, however, November 2 brought unseasonably warm weather into Cape May.  The temperature approached 70 degrees, winds were gentle and the sun shined brightly.  And monarchs were seen all around Cape May Point.

Monarch in Cape May Point's Triangle Park.
Field Naturalist Intern Lindsey Brendel discovered the surprising influx at mid-morning, and by midday MMP Director Mark Garland joined her in the field.  Mark tagged 29, and Lindsey worked most of the day and tagged 126.  It's generally thought that monarchs seen in Cape May this late in the season won't make it to Mexico, but we don't really know.  As long as they stay ahead of freezing weather they've got a chance.  We'll learn a lot if one (or more) of these monarchs is found in Mexico or somewhere along the migratory route.

Monarch tagged today in Bill Schuhl's garden.
Monarchs weren't the only butterflies around Cape May Point today, we also observed American Ladies, Cloudless Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Variegated Fritillaries, Red Admirals, Question Marks, Ocola Skippers, Sachems, and perhaps a few others.  Thursday's forecast calls for a warm, sunny morning followed by showers and the arrival of a cold front.  The morning is likely to be excellent for monarchs and other butterflies, and the cold front coming later in the day may signal the end of this surprising late butterfly bonanza.

Pristine Monarch nectaring on lantana in the Triangle Park.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

End of Season

   It's hard to believe that the MMP 2016 season is about to come to a close. From my first day as a seasonal naturalist when I only tagged a few monarchs, to the 24th of October when I tagged over one hundred, it has been a delight to be part of this important project.The numbers of monarchs may not have been huge this season, but the enthusiasm and interest of our hundreds of visitors was. Some came to see the the monarchs to mark a special birthday or anniversary. Others were moved to tears as they released this enchanting butterfly at our demos at the Cape May Point State Park. The students that we spoke to from the Middle Township School,  West Cape May Elementary School, and Wildwood School were all very interested in this charismatic butterfly. The small, more intimate gatherings at Triangle Park gave me a chance to engage visitors in a relaxed and beautiful setting, and let them witness netting and tagging, Noteworthy moments included finding out who was to be the recipient of the monarch they were adopting. For many, it was a grandchild, for others, their siblings, or in honor of a relative or friend.  It was a treat for them to "adopt" the monarch that they saw me tag.  (Inquire about supporting our project through adoptions at 
     An early article about the MMP in the Atlantic City Press started off our season. Our skilled leaders, Louise Zematis and Mark Garland, were on hand for the interview. Mid-season, Lindsey Brendel, our other seasonal naturalist for the MMP, spoke to a local radio station about the monarch life cycle and conservation issues.      Our project received much interest and help from our many volunteers. Also, Dick Walton, our project founder, was on hand for several weeks as well. A highlight of my time here was meeting the warm, friendly, and generous people of Cape May. I learned so much from everyone here. Being welcome into the gardens of neighborhood people who provide rich habitat for monarch caterpillars and butterflies allowed us to conduct our research and see first-hand what a difference these gardens make. I would encourage you to provide a Monarch Waystation by having a garden with common milkweed, swamp milkweed, or butterfly weed and nectar sources which will also serve to make your garden colorful and appealing. (See on how to certify your garden and get a cool sign! ) 
Diane Tassey is a natural teacher.  Here she explains
monarch migration at one of our tagging demos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Late surge of monarchs

Monarch numbers were good last week, but extreme winds kept most hunkered down over the weekend.  Strong northwest winds continued on Monday, and a noticeable increase of monarchs occurred.  Observations were made at Cape May Point, at the Avalon Seawatch, and at Stone Harbor Point.  Tuesday's weather forecast is very promising; if weather like this had come two or three weeks ago we would have predicted a very large flight of monarchs.  It's late in the season, so we don't expect a huge flight, but we do expect the numbers to increase over the next day or two.  We'll be out there watching, and at the very least we know there will be excellent flights of migratory birds occurring.

Here are a few photos from Monday.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Last tagging demos

It's been a week of steady monarch migration through Cape May, and our team has accomplished a lot of tagging.  The seaside goldenrod is at peak bloom along the dunes at Cape May Point, but surprisingly we haven't seen many monarchs here.  We've watched them taking off over Delaware Bay and heading to Mexico, but most of the nectaring monarchs have been seen in the local gardens.  Friday's forecast suggests another good day for seeing monarchs at Cape May Point, but high winds are predicted for the weekend, and those are not good conditions for monarch viewing.

Male monarch at a private garden in Cape May Point.
Our education programs are wrapping up for the year.  Last Sunday we held the year's final tagging demo at Cape May Point State Park.  We are grateful for the hundreds of visitors who attended these programs.  On Wednesday we held our final Triangle Park drop-in program for 2016.  This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, we'll offer short tagging demos at noon at the Cape May Convention Hall, part of the New Jersey Audubon Society's autumn festival, details here: NJA Fall Festival.

Our field studies continue until October 31, so if you're around Cape May Point watch for members of our team.  We're usually the only ones carrying butterfly nets.  We're always happy to greet visitors and talk about monarch butterflies.

Project volunteer Paige Cunningham tags a monarch at last Sunday's demo.