Hello all! It is finally the official beginning of monarch season in Cape May! Sunday marked the official start to the season with a few flutters of orange painting the sky and appearing in local gardens. Daily census runs have started 3x daily so if you live in the area and are stuck behind a black slow moving vehicle covered in stickers... well that's me, Samm Wehman the new monarch intern doing one of these surveys.
As the new monarch monitoring project "naturalist" I would like to introduce myself. My name is Samm Wehman and I am from Marlton, NJ but have been living in the Cape May Beach area since early spring. I have had a love for insects especially butterflies since a young age and am really enthusiastic to be working hands on with monarchs for the next 2 months. I recently graduated from Rutgers with an animal science degree w/ a minor in ecology & evolution, and hope to pursue work in the field of wildlife conservation. I just finished my first field job with NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife monitoring NJ's endangered beach nesting shorebirds (piping plovers, black skimmers, least terns, and special concern species American oystercatchers). I love nature and animals of all kinds and just hope to always contribute in some way to making our world a better place. I am also an artist on the side and specialize in customized animal artwork if you want to check it out! (http://wehman.wix.com/customanimalartwork)
Throughout September & October I'll be spending most of my time around Cape May Point catching & tagging monarchs, so keep your eye out for me and don't hesitate to say hello! If I am able to catch a monarch I would be glad to give you a personal tagging demo and answer any questions you may have about our project. Finding me is also your best bet to get some awesome handouts, bumper stickers or bookmarks too :). Currently there are monarchs starting to flutter their way around Cape May and I have seen a good number of caterpillars in local gardens; remember that the biggest way to help out (no matter where you live) is plant some milkweed and invite a monarch to lunch! Tagging demos will be open to the public regularly at the state park, and more details about dates and times in which you can participate will be available soon. I will try my best to update this blog often along with the project's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CMMonarchs).
More information about those who are directly involved in the project, history, census details, tagging, education information and ways in which you can contribute to the project can be found on the Monarch Monitoring Project's official website at www.monarchmonitoringproject.com. Regular census updates for this season may be posted as well once the season progresses.
Keep in mind also that NJ Audubon Society is a non-profit organization and the monarch monitoring project is funded only by donations and fundraising efforts. There are really fun ways in which you can contribute to the project by "adopting" a monarch that gets tagged, and you will be notified if your tagged individual is found somewhere along it's incredible 3,000 mile journey! Also at our tagging demos, you can purchase unique monarch butterfly magnets that can go on your car or fridge for only $2 or $5. Both awesome gifts.
Well, I hope if you don't live locally in Cape May that you can find the opportunity to visit at some point during this incredible natural phenomenon. Fingers crossed it will be a good season for them.. some unfortunate factors have been causing what is expected to be a decline in the migrating population this year, but since there seems to be extra caterpillars marching around the milkweed plants lately we can only hope for the best..... I'll make sure to post a blog soon including more detailed and scholarly info on why our migrating monarchs aren't at their peak numbers these days.
Thanks for having an interest in the monarchs and their incredible journey, and hope to see you soon!