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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Here today, gone tomorrow?

Wednesday was the third straight day with winds from the NW, the ideal wind direction for monarch migration through Cape May.  The winds did their job, bringing the first wave of southbound migrants into Cape May Point.  A few arrived on Monday, more came in yesterday, and by this morning we had monarchs all over the Point.  Not really big numbers, as we're hoping to see later this fall, but every garden seemed to have 5 or 10 monarchs at any given time.  Our team tagged more than 100 today, mostly in the morning.  The wind was gentle all day today, and it shifted to the northeast by afternoon, ideal conditions for monarch to cross Delaware Bay and continue their southbound movements.  It seemed many must have done just that; there seemed to be fewer monarch around by afternoon, and our census numbers confirmed that.

Migrating monarch are generally very bright and fresh-looking.

Winds are predicted to blow from the southwest tomorrow, then from the southeast for the next two days.  We don't expect to see many new monarch arrivals over the next three days, and more will probably be drifting away from the Point.  We will, however, add a word of caution to the prediction: the monarchs sometimes fool us, the weather sometimes fools the weather forecasters, so we really are just guessing about what's going to happen next.

While we're guessing that the next few days won't reward us with big numbers of migrating monarchs, we still encourage our readers to come visit us at Cape May Point.  The flower-filled gardens of Cape May Point are attracting many butterflies.  It's shaping up to be a good fall for southern butterflies that disperse northward at this season.  At least the Ocola Skippers were visiting one private garden in the Point today, and we're also seeing Fiery Skippers, Cloudless Sulphurs, and Long-tailed Skippers.  You'll still see some monarchs -- we'll have some around every day for at least the next five weeks -- and there are still monarch caterpillars chowing down on milkweed, both in the gardens and in the displays that our team maintains at the Cape May Bird Observatory Northwood Center and at the Nature Center of Cape May.

Two monarch caterpillars feeding on the same leaf - an unusual sight.

Private garden in Cape May Point.
Ocola Skipper - note the long forewings jutting well
beyond the hind wings when this skipper is at rest.
You can visit with the CMBO Monarch Monitoring Project team any day (through October 18) by visiting the Triangle Park in Cape May Point at 11:00 am.  Triangle Park is located at the junction of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues.  We also have tagging demos coming up on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at 2 pm for the next few weeks beginning this Friday, Sept. 18.  The demos are held at the East Shelter in Cape May Point State Park, which is the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to the hawk watch platform.  Our programs are free, though we are happy to accept donations (and we have some little "thank you" gifts for those who choose to donate to our project).

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