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.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Settling into the dunes

By Monday afternoon many monarchs were settled down around Cape May Point, with many fewer in the air than during the morning.  Time to eat and rest before continuing the journey, and one of the monarchs' favorite food plants, seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) is now in bloom all over the upper beaches and dunes around Cape May Point.  While many may still be found in private gardens throughout the Cape May area, your best best for seeing monarchs during the day will come from a visit to the dunes.  Most of the streets in Cape May Point that end at the dunes will have a walkway that will take you to the top of the dune; head on up and check the goldenrods, you're likely to see a scene like the one below.

We can't be certain about what the monarchs will do this evening, but usually after the goldenrod begins to bloom they will settle into overnight roosts in the cedars and pines close to the beach.  My best guess is that tonight's largest roost will be near the corner of Cape & Lincoln in Cape May Point, which has been loaded with monarchs the last two nights.

Monarchs in the seaside goldenrod near the dune crossing at Whilldin Ave.

There are many dangers along the monarch migration route.  While the cardiac glycosides that monarchs assimilate from milkweed plants as caterpillars provide a chemical defense from vertebrate predators, invertebrates can prey on monarchs if they can catch them.  One of the more efficient monarch predators is the praying mantis; the one below was hiding near goldenrod flowers and successfully ambushed a monarch.  There are many such hazards along the 2000 miles between Cape May Point and the monarch wintering grounds in Mexico, and it seems miraculous that millions make the journey successfully every autumn.

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