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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Bit of a Lull

Monarchs were still easy to find around Cape May Point today, but the census numbers were only about half of the totals counted on each of the previous three days.  Fairly strong east winds picked up this afternoon, and that may have had some of the monarchs clinging to vegetation and not readily seen on the census, but it does seem like more monarchs departed than arrived today.  The weekend forecast doesn't suggest that we'll see many more monarchs over the next 2 day, but another cold front is expected on Monday.  Our best guess is that early next week will bring the next noticeable influx of monarchs into Cape May.

This shouldn't be alarming.  Every year our monarch numbers go up and down several times.  A lot of it is weather dependent.  North winds trigger the southward movement of monarchs.  They are unlikely to fly into south winds -- with 2000 miles to cover, why try flying into a headwind?  West winds push monarchs towards the Atlantic coast, so more are likely to get funneled into Cape May.  East winds push many monarchs to the west of Delaware Bay, and they'll head south without ever coming to Cape May.  Northwest winds, which combine the attributes of the north winds and the west ones, generally deliver the most monarchs into Cape May.  Autumn cold fronts are usually followed by northwest winds.

We know that there are many more monarchs to come.  Plenty haven't even begun to migrate -- they're still in one of the immature stages.  We're still seeing many eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalides around Cape May, and we're told this is true to our north as well.  We're also hearing reports of large numbers of monarch on the move in places like the Lake Ontario shore in upstate New York.  So we'll continue to watch for a big movement of monarchs into Cape May.  North winds or south, lots of monarchs or just a few, we'll be continuing our studies every day until the end of October.  We invite you to come and watch along with us.

Monarch egg.

Monarch caterpillar, just about ready to pupate.
Monarch chrysalis. Wings of the soon-to-emerge adult are becoming visible.


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