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 3, 2013

The wrong wind direction ... again.

Our promising morning turned into an okay, but not spectacular day for the migration of monarchs through Cape May.  The wind switched to blowing from the southwest.  Tomorrow's forecast wind direction: southwest.  We have had a lot of southwest winds this fall.  Those winds don't typically bring many monarchs to Cape May, as they would be fighting headwinds to get here, but sometimes the butterflies fool us, and sometimes the weather forecasters are wrong.  So we'll be out there again tomorrow, counting and tagging, and generally keeping track of migration.

While monarch numbers are lower than average, they are far from the lowest we have seen.  We encourage monarch enthusiasts to check the data page on our website regularly:  We have been hearing a lot of negative comments about this year's migration, with many extreme comments such as, "There are no monarchs this year," or "This is the worst it's ever been."  We find ourselves on the defensive from these comments, and always point to the data, not to impressions.  This is why we have been counting monarchs systematically for 22 autumns, so we are able to judge the migration through Cape May based on numbers, not recollections.  And there are monarchs in Cape May this fall, there have been monarchs counted here every day of the census period, and several years have seen lower number than this year.  I like to remind folks that it's human nature to remember the big years, not the low ones -- the big flights are the ones that are memorable.

That's not to say that there aren't reasons to be concerned about the migratory population of monarchs that inhabit eastern North America, and we talk about conservation at every one of our tagging demos.  Come visit us if you can.  Our demos will continue every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 19 at Cape May Point State Park, 2 pm in the East Picnic Pavilion.

MMP Director Dick Walton talks about monarch biology
to the group at Wednesday's tagging demo.

MMP Field Coordinator Louise Zemaitis tags
a monarch at Wednesday's demo.


  1. I'm glad you're telling people this isn't the end of the world. Yes, this has been one of the weirdest monarch years ever, but here in Lancaster County they were late, but once they got here they are doing really well. Because they were so late, tachinid fly parasitization rates are WAY below normal, and more are making it to adulthood. Currently, chrysalides are bursting open all over the monarch room, so I'm assuming the same is happening in the rest of Southern PA. They are late, but they are coming. The question is, are they too late? It will be interesting to see the final data for Cape May and for Mexico. Happy tagging, Gayle

    1. am so happy to have found this page and all of it's information! I spent a few days at the park 2 weeks ago and left seriously depressed at the lack of monarchs (I have been coming about 5 years regularly at this time). Nice to know they are not gone and this may be a natural dip in population due to a variety of factors (man made and not man made). Plus, the wind direction was all wrong - the same reason for the lact of warblers probably. So, I will look forward to recovery of the monarch numbers hopefully in the next few years