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.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Watch for Tagged Monarchs

Day 3 of the 2015 CMBO Monarch Monitoring Project is complete, and the status of monarchs in Cape May is unchanged.  We're still seeing fair numbers of monarchs, but most are clearly the end of the last pre-migratory generation.  Two females were laying eggs in one Cape May Point garden, males were patrolling flower patches in search of females, and the monarchs we caught for tagging we mostly worn and without significant fat reserves.  Only those monarchs about to undertake long migratory flights typically build up big fat reserves.  We've also had several female monarchs in hand that were obviously "gravid," with clusters of eggs obvious to the touch near the end of their abdomens.  The weather has been hot with winds out of the south and southwest, weather that isn't conducive to migration.  The heat is supposed to break over the next few days, and while the northeast wind that are forecast aren't the best for migration in to Cape May, they're surely better than the hot southerly winds we have been experiencing.  Perhaps the coming weekend will see the first significant influx of migrating monarchs into Cape May.

Even though we suppose most of the monarchs around right now aren't migrating, we're still catching and tagging some of them.  We take several measurements when we tag monarchs, which provides good data, but the really exciting data is gained when a tagged monarch is found someplace else.  For this we need the help of as many observers as possible.  Help us out by watching for tagged monarchs.

If you do see a monarch with a tag, try to read the last line on the tag.  This will be a 6-character code, three letters followed by three numbers.  If you're tagging monarchs or have a net for another reason, you can net the butterfly to get a close look at the tag.  But often you can read the tag code by observing with binoculars.  An increasing number of tag recoveries now come when an observer takes a digital photo of the tagged monarch.  If you're controlling the exposure manually, photograph darker than normal to get the best resolution of the light-colored tag.  By cropping and enlarging on the computer, and possibly tweaking the exposure, contrast, and sharpness of the image, you'll often be able to read the code.

A tagged monarch is photographed from afar with a darkened exposure.
When the image is cropped and blown up, even though the image
isn't super clear, the code of UMG 003 can be read.

Once you've been able to read the tag code, note also the date, time, and location.  Report to Monarch Watch (per instructions on the tag) with either an e-mail message to, or by leaving a message on the toll-free phone number of 1-800-TAGGING.  Please also send this data to us, just in case it's a monarch from Cape May.  E-mail us at, comment on this blog, or post notice on our FaceBook page, Cape May Monarchs.  If it's not one of ours, we'll post the information on our blog and on our FaceBook page and we might locate the tagger more quickly than when the data is processed through the main Monarch Watch office.  It's always thrilling to learn how far a monarch may have traveled, and how quickly.  We'll probably tag a few thousand monarchs around Cape May this fall, and with luck, and with the help of observers out there, we'll learn about the travels of several of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment