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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Best Day of the Year (So Far)

MMP volunteer Michael O'Brien photographed these two monarchs as
they glided over the dunes at Cape May Point this morning.

I hope that many of you reading this blog were in Cape May Point today.  The weather was glorious, and for most of the day we were seeing monarchs everywhere.  Five members of the team were actively tagging for part or all of the day,  and we did a whole lot of tagging and teaching.  The Cape was crowded -- a gorgeous September Saturday can be as busy as a summer day -- and as we were tagging we invariably drew questions from curious passersby, which quickly evolved into mini-lessons about monarch biology.  A huge crowd, over 100 people, attended our 2 pm tagging demo, and an additional monarch lesson was given to a prominent regional conservation group, Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, by our Field Coordinator Louise Zemaitis.  I suspect that our team educated well over 250 people today.

One of many monarchs visiting Cape May Point today.

The census tally was the highest of the year so far, with a value of 122.1 monarchs/hour.  Unfortunately, the third and final census of the day (3:00 pm) tallied fewer monarchs than did the first two runs.  Our sense is that many monarchs arrived into Cape May Point in the morning, but then many departed for Delaware in the afternoon.  We're tempted to feel disappointed when monarchs are leaving Cape May, but of course they need to leave quickly when the winds are in their favor, they've got 2,000 miles to go before they get to their Mexican winter home.

Southeast winds are forecast for tomorrow, and those are not winds that typically bring monarchs into Cape May.  We expect a slower day, but of course we're always just guessing about the future, we have no magic crystal ball.  But it's very likely that we'll see other big monarch days this fall, perhaps one or more with a greater number of monarchs than were seen today.  So do as we do, come to Cape May Point just as often as you can.  We're out there every day.  If it's a slow day for monarchs, there are always other wonders to enjoy.  We're still seeing many butterflies in addition to monarchs, as shown below.  And there are always those birds, dragonflies, wildflowers ... as we like to say, there's no such thing as a bad day in Cape May.

Red admirals are easy to find in Cape May right now, especially along
the yellow trail in Cape May Point State Park, where some rotting
pears are providing a tasty meal for these and other species.

Eastern tailed blues are around, too.  Train your eyes low to see this one,
it rarely flies higher than waist height.

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