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.
So today wraps up the season for monarchs in Cape May. As the 2013 field technician, I do have to say I'm very sad to leave behind this incredible opportunity. I enjoyed every moment of my job, even though it has been quite a low and disappointing year for many.
I always enjoyed censusing by car, whether we had a good number of monarchs or none. I loved going out and tagging monarchs, even on the days when there weren't many around to be tagged. I loved giving informal demos to locals around the point, or visitors in the CMBO.
I appreciated every conversation I had with someone, whether it was a local or a visitor who traveled for hours or days to be a part of what we do and learn more about our project. It was truly inspiring to see the look on someone's face when they got to release a monarch butterfly and send it on its way to Mexico.
It was touching for me when visitors "adopted" their own monarch in memory of a passed loved one. It made my heart melt when I had groups of children who never even saw a butterfly before, stop and hold all of their attention on a tagging demonstration and smile with such intensity as they released a monarch off their fingertips, that it will leave an impression in my heart forever.
Photo taken by Dave Magpiong
I had fun raising 40+ butterflies from eggs at the CMBO (and still going... now I have a huge tent set up in my dining room with 13 caterpillars of assorted sizes and 4 chrysalids that may emerge any day now!).
I also loved coordinating monarch themed outfits to wear on a daily basis.. although most of the time it just happened to work out that way :)
Photo taken by Louise Zemaitis
I also want to thank some very important people who have been a significant part of the project.
Louise Zemaitis and Mark Garland have supervised the project and helped me tremendously the past 2 months. They have been kind, helpful, and I consider them both close friends of mine after how much closer I have become to both of them. They have provided endless abundances of information about monarchs to help me learn and educate others during the duration of our project. I also have to thank Michael O'Brien and Paige Cunningham for their endless support and encouragement as well.
Dick Walton and Patsy Eickelberg spent 3 weeks in Cape May during the monarch season and I am thankful for every moment I got to spend with them. Dick, the directer of the MMP is an extrodinary naturalist and really offered me a lot of insight and guidance throughout the season. He spent time sharing some of his other passions with me and teaching me about dragonflies and jumping spiders. I learned a tremendous amount from him while he was here and hope to always keep in touch as he has been an excellent mentor to me and I'm sure he will continue to be throughout my naturalist's career that lies ahead. His wife Patsy is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is so warm and pleasant and taught me a few tricks up her sleeve of catching handfuls of monarchs in one net sweep at a time. She is by far the best butterfly catcher I have seen.
Lynn Lee is a very special woman who I am fortunate to call my friend. I feel as though her and I bonded during the time she stayed in Cape May Point, traveling hours from her hometown in Derwood, Maryland to help with our monarch research. Lynn rears hundreds of monarchs and brings her entire "monarch nursery" set-up, and wholesome garden of home-grown milkweed with her when she comes. She taught me every trick in the book when it comes to rearing monarchs, varying from hanging chrysalids from dental floss, to arranging them how you want carefully with straight pins. Lynn has such a spiritual connection to monarch butterflies, and she is passionate about and invests her entire heart into everything that she does to make our world a better place.
Lynn Lee with her rearing cages
I also have become close with many of the local gardeners around Cape May point; Bill and Edie Schuhl, Pecky Witonski, and Patti Domm. Without their incredible gardens and all of the work they put into them, I wouldn't have had many monarchs to tag! Their yards provide safe havens and a lasting supply of resources to monarch butterflies and many other species as well.
I want to thank many of our other volunteers, including but not limited to LuAnn Daniels, Megan Walker and Kashi Davis for your constant help and support of the MMP! Kashi you have always been there for me in all that I do and I appreciate every bit you have done for me!
Thank you to every person who has traveled to Cape May from all over the world to be a part of our nature-appreciating community and take interest in the research that we do. Every smile we have gotten, every donation we have recieved and every bit of feedback is all appreciated tremendously.
Just another day at work, having the best job in the world. I will miss this!
I can't thank everyone enough for this outstanding season and I will carry the experiences I have gained, the knowledge I have learned, and the memories of every monarch I have tagged with me everywhere that I go.