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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Strong winds

Monarch nectaring on seaside goldenrod, trying
to avoid today's strong winds.

Sunday Cape May was hit with strong Northwest winds, greater than 20 mph for most of the day. The driving census totals were very low, because few butterflies were willing to fly in such wind. Many small roosts that formed along the dunes under conifer trees on Saturday didn't change much during the day. The 20-40 monarchs in these roosts only shifted position so that the butterflies were not windward. Thankfully, the dunes are there with intact tree cover.

Dunes occur naturally along the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey, but historically they would shift position periodically due to storms and persistent winds.  When humans build along the shore we don't allow the dunes to grow and shift naturally, and therefore it's necessary to replenish beach sands and rebuild the dunes periodically.  The last major project in Cape May was begun about 10 years ago.  Without the vegetated dunes, many monarchs would be without essential shelter from the wind. Seaside goldenrod grows along the dunes and is a critical food resource for monarchs, as few other native plants on the dunes are still blooming and providing nectar during the late stages of the monarch migration season. Concerned citizens of Cape May Point annually plant new patches of seaside goldenrod on the dunes.

Unfortunately these strong winds meant that some migrating birds and insects would be pushed over the Atlantic waters. Lighter winds are predicted for Monday, and we expect to see monarchs on the move again and birds returning to Cape May and trying to get back on course.

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