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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Here they come!

After a rainy, dreary morning in Cape May, shortly before noon the winds shifted to the northwest, the rain stopped, the sky cleared, and the migrants began to arrive.  First there were the hawks, then the skies around Cape May became filled with dragonflies, and then, yes, the monarchs started coming in.  Sure, we've been seeing monarchs around Cape May all month, but today we could see them dropping from high in the sky down to Cape May Point.  The census numbers rose dramatically from the morning run to the 3 pm count.  We feel that this was the first major influx of 2014.

Monarch in excellent condition, one of many found at Cape May Point today.

In addition to seeing a rise in the census numbers, our team noticed that most monarchs that we found were in excellent condition and had not been tagged.  A few days ago I set out to do some tagging, and when 5 of the first 6 monarchs I netted had already been tagged by our team, I realized that we were seeing monarchs that had been hanging around.  Even the ones that hadn't been tagged were often quite worn, like the one below.  Today we saw lots of new, fresh monarchs that were clearly just arriving into Cape May Point.

Our team took advantage of the influx and we did a lot of tagging.  I think we more than doubled the season's total of monarchs tagged just this afternoon.  In the shot below, Angela Demarse records data on one of today's monarchs.  The tagging process includes more than just affixing a tag to a monarch's wing, we also record date, time, location, gender, wing length, and fat reserves.  The whole process usually just takes about a minute.

Part of our day was once again spent meeting with the Press.  A major objective of our program is to inform and educate as many people as possible about the biology of monarchs and of the conservation issues related to our favorite insect.  Today we had a great opportunity to meet with Lauren Wanko, reporter for NJTV.  Lauren visited us in 2012 and did a nice piece on our project, which you can see here.  We love Lauren, she is a very thorough reporter who works hard to get the story right.  She's also very friendly, and our team thoroughly enjoyed working with her.  She worked on the story with us for over two hours.  The monarch segment is scheduled to air on NJTV as part of their 7 pm news on Wednesday, Sept. 17.  Below, our seasonal staff poses with Lauren and with monarch butterflies.

Left to right: Lindsey Brendel, Lauren Wanko of NJTV, and Angela Demarse.
It's a great time to be in Cape May.  North winds are predicted for tomorrow, so we're guessing more monarchs will be arriving.  This is also the season for lots of songbirds, raptors, and even a wayward tern to be seen in Cape May.  The Whiskered Tern that was found on Friday was seen many times again today.  It's a great season for seeing a great variety of butterflies and dragonflies; the White-M Hairstreak, shown below, distracted us from our monarch work for a few moments.  It was a full, exciting day for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  Head on down to Cape May Point if you have a chance, this place rarely disappoints.  If you see a member of our team out there sweeping through the gardens with a butterfly net in hand, be sure to stop and say hello.  If you've never seen a butterfly get tagged, you might even get an impromptu demonstration.  And if you want to come to one of our formal tagging demonstrations, those will occur this weekend on both Saturday, Sept. 20, and Sunday, Sept. 21, at 2 pm each day.  Find us at the East Pavilion in Cape May Point State Park, the covered picnic pavilion right next to the Hawk Watch Platform.

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