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, August 25, 2015

Field Season Begins Next Week

Next Tuesday, September 1, 2015, marks the beginning of the new field season for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  We'll conduct our driving census of monarchs three times that day, and the census will be conducted every day through October 31.  We will also tag monarchs and conduct a variety of public education and outreach programs.  Our team includes perennial MMP staffers Dick Walton, Louise Zemaitis, and Mark Garland.  Lindsey Brendel returns for a second year as one of our seasonal technicians.  She will be joined by Katie Burns, from coastal Maine, who has been working with bees in California this summer.

Additionally we are also helped by enthusiastic volunteers.  This year we're testing new ideas for studies of monarch migration in South Jersey areas to the north of Cape May.  As noted in the previous post, a series of volunteer training events are planned, and the "Monarch Ambassadors" that we train will be asked to conduct these pilot studies for us.

We're happy to report that the August population of monarchs in Cape May seems pretty good.  A few may be early migrants, but most are behaving like the year's penultimate generation, those whose offspring will migrate to Mexico.  That's clearly the case for the mating pair shown above, who were photographed this afternoon in a West Cape May back yard.  Migrating monarchs have their mating urge delayed until after their long period of winter dormancy in Mexico.

What does this mean for the upcoming migration?  We know better than to make a prediction.  We're always optimistic, but only when the season is over will we have data that will define the season.

Speaking of predictions, we're frequently asked, "When will be the best time to see the monarchs in Cape May this year?"  I wish we knew the answer!  There are usually several peaks between about the 10th of September and the 20th of October, and often the biggest numbers come after the passage of cold fronts, when northwest winds push monarchs into Cape May, but there is absolutely no way to guess which days will see many monarchs and which will see few.  One thing we can predict: as the season progresses we will faithfully report on the monarch numbers in Cape May in this blog and on the project's FaceBook page, Cape May Monarchs.  Please plan to visit Cape May Point at least once during the next two months.  We'll be posting the schedule of our public programs early in September.

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