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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We found someone else's tagged monarch

It was a fairly slow weekend for Monarchs in Cape May, as hot dry weather continued and winds were generally from the south, the wrong direction from our point of view.  We see more Monarchs after a cold front passes and winds blow from the north or northwest.  We just haven't had those winds yet this year.  We've also experienced drought conditions; the photo below is taken from a bridge along the yellow trail at Cape May Point State Park, and the dry ditch in the photo is generally a water-filled channel.  I don't recall ever seeing this channel completely dry.

We did experience one highlight today.  At about 11 am, as our seasonal field naturalist Lindsey Brendel was preparing for our daily "drop-in" program at the Triangle Park, she netted the monarch below, which bears tag WAT 878.  This is not one of the tags issued to our program, so this butterfly was tagged by someone else.  We're eager to learn more about this monarch.  Sometimes other taggers visit Cape May and tag monarchs here, but tagging is conducted at many other locations.  We're hoping this one came from a distant location -- tag recoveries teach us a lot about the direction and speed of the monarch migration.

This Monarch was tagged on the right wing -- here in
Cape May we tag on the left side, so we knew right
away that someone else had tagged this one.

As we wait for the season's first big influx of Monarchs, we continue to enjoy some of the southern butterflies that have been drifting north in recent weeks.  One we haven't shown yet on the blog is the Ocola Skipper, shown below.  Note the very long forewing that juts out well beyond the hindwing on this resting skipper -- that's typical of butterflies in the genus Panoquina, which includes the Salt Marsh Skipper, which we regularly see during the Cape May summer.  The Ocola Skipper is bigger than the other eastern Panoquinas, and it's being found in Cape May gardens with increasing frequency in recent days.  Come visit us at Cape May Point and you might find Ocola Skippers in the gardens and, if you're really lucky, you might arrive with a major influx of Monarchs.  It's bound to happen sometime this season.

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