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.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

They didn't come

We thought there might be a significant influx of monarchs into southern New Jersey today, given northerly winds that triggered an enormous hawk migration and plentiful sunshine.  It didn't happen.  I checked Stone Harbor Point this afternoon, the natural area along a barrier island less than 10 miles north of Cape May where we have seen big monarch concentrations in the past.  Conditions were perfect for monarchs, with acres of seaside goldenrod at peak bloom, but only a few monarchs were here.  I think I saw more red admirals and mourning cloaks than monarchs.

The dune at Stone Harbor Point is literally covered with seaside goldenrod.

Despite perfect conditions, only a few monarchs were here this afternoon.

This evening I checked Cape May Point for roosting monarchs, but I only found a few small clusters, all near the Whilldin Ave. dune crossover.  Two are shown below.  As scientists we are supposed to be objective and just record the data, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, in season, I always hope for another great monarch spectacle.

We usually see one or two big concentrations of monarchs in Cape May during the middle part of October, but we're wondering now if most of the monarchs have already come through.  Julia's post about the major arrival of monarchs into Mexico this week fuels that thought.  And it's probably best for the monarchs to have a successful early migration, since the colder, windier weather that often characterizes late October probably presents greater challenges to monarch migration than does the warmer weather of early fall.

Monarchs clustered on pine trees and Virginia creeper vines Thursday afternoon.

Of course we don't know yet if another migratory surge will pass through Cape May this fall, so workers with the Monarch Monitoring Project will be in the field every day until the end of October, performing our daily censuses, searching for roosts and other monarch concentration points, tagging monarchs, and spreading the word about these impressive migratory insects.  Come see us at Cape May Point.

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