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, November 2, 2016

November Surprise!

Our field season runs from Sept 1 through Oct. 31, and by the end of that period the monarch migration is usually over.  Monarchs begin to arrive on the winter grounds around the end of October, and that's the case this year (see here).  In early November we're usually compiling the data, cleaning out the gardens, and putting away the nets and other project equipment.

This year, however, November 2 brought unseasonably warm weather into Cape May.  The temperature approached 70 degrees, winds were gentle and the sun shined brightly.  And monarchs were seen all around Cape May Point.

Monarch in Cape May Point's Triangle Park.
Field Naturalist Intern Lindsey Brendel discovered the surprising influx at mid-morning, and by midday MMP Director Mark Garland joined her in the field.  Mark tagged 29, and Lindsey worked most of the day and tagged 126.  It's generally thought that monarchs seen in Cape May this late in the season won't make it to Mexico, but we don't really know.  As long as they stay ahead of freezing weather they've got a chance.  We'll learn a lot if one (or more) of these monarchs is found in Mexico or somewhere along the migratory route.

Monarch tagged today in Bill Schuhl's garden.
Monarchs weren't the only butterflies around Cape May Point today, we also observed American Ladies, Cloudless Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Variegated Fritillaries, Red Admirals, Question Marks, Ocola Skippers, Sachems, and perhaps a few others.  Thursday's forecast calls for a warm, sunny morning followed by showers and the arrival of a cold front.  The morning is likely to be excellent for monarchs and other butterflies, and the cold front coming later in the day may signal the end of this surprising late butterfly bonanza.

Pristine Monarch nectaring on lantana in the Triangle Park.

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