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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday update: Plenty of monarchs!

We've got brisk northwest winds in Cape May today, so brisk that few monarchs appear to be departing for Delaware, but others seem to be arriving.  The hot spots are currently right along the dunes on the eastern portion of Cape May Point, and the butterflies are active around the path to the beach from St. Peter's Chapel, at the corner of Harvard, Ocean, and South Lake.  The woods here held a substantial overnight roost last night, and it looks like there will be just as many this evening, if not more.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Monarchs a-plenty in Cape May

We were forced to be patient early this week, as east and northeast winds swirled around Hurricane Maria, which parked itself offshore for a few days.  But everything changed on Thursday, when the winds switched around to come from the northwest.  Monarch numbers steadily increased on Thursday, but Friday brought the year's first really big flights.  All day long we watched monarchs dropping into Cape May Point from the sky, stopping to feed in gardens, amongst ivy vines, and especially along the dunes, where the Seaside Goldenrod has just started blooming.

As we watched monarch numbers build all day, we started to anticipate monarch roosting in the late afternoon.  When the temperatures start to get chilly, and when lots of monarchs are around, they'll cluster together in the late afternoon, reminiscent of the way they cluster together by the millions in their Mexican wintering areas.  By late afternoon we started searching, and we found a number of areas where a few hundred monarchs we forming roosts.

One of the biggest roosts was found in the pine trees along the pathway to the beach by the St. Peter's chapel, where Harvard, Ocean, and Lake streets meet.  Roosts were also found by the corner of Cape & Lincoln, and also along Alexander Ave.

We were delighted by a visit from Ted Greenberg of Philadelphia's NBC-10 television station, who filmed and produced a short segment on the monarchs of Cape May Point, which you can see here:

The forecast suggests that monarchs will continue to migrate through Cape May Point in good numbers on Saturday and possibly also on Sunday.  If you come to Cape May to see the monarchs this weekend, we hope you'll come to one of our Monarch Talks and Tagging Demos, which are held at the East Shelter of Cape May Point State Park at 2:00 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 15.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday update

A cold front is passing through Cape May, bringing northwest winds. We are seeing a gradual increase in monarchs around Cape May Point, and we expect numbers to increase over the next few days. We can't know, however, if we will see a few more monarchs or a lot more. Stay tuned for updates.

Remember that we have public programs every day for the next few weeks. Join our team at 2 pm in Cape May Point State Park every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a monarch talk and tagging demo. Meet at the East Shelter, the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to the hawk watch platform. On Monday through Thursday you can meet a monarch biologist at 1 pm at the Triangle Park in Cape May Point for a casual discussion of monarch studies, often with a tagging demo. Triangle Park is at the junction of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues.

Young visitor launches newly tagged monarch.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Monarch numbers today better than we first thought

Monarch numbers turned out to be better than we first thought today; we didn't find them this morning in the gardens where they normally occur, but instead found many along the dune and tucked into a few yards where the English ivy vines have begun to bloom. Census numbers from today were similar to yesterday's. So it looks like the weekend will be good for viewing monarchs in Cape May.

Numbers dropping a bit

Last night we predicted that monarch numbers in Cape May would be increasing this weekend; so far that has not proven to be true, and numbers are down a bit this morning.  North winds are continuing, which often bring monarchs into Cape May, but we aren't always able to accurately predict what will happen.  Stay tuned for further reports.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Monarch numbers rising

Cape May has seen northwesterly winds since Tropical Storm Jose moved past, and as expected, monarch numbers have been increasing.  We are guessing that numbers will continue to be high around Cape May right through the weekend.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Waiting for the Wind to Change

We are now two weeks into the field season for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  We've seen monarchs every day, and we're busy tagging every day, but we are still waiting for the first major influx for 2017.  As sometimes happens at this season, we're in a spell of warm, humid weather with winds blowing from the south or the southeast.  These are not winds that bring many monarchs into Cape May.  The current weather forecast is full of uncertainty, with tropical storm Jose churning away out in the Atlantic.  If it drifts close to shore, we're likely to see more winds from the south and the east.  If it drifts further east, however, it could let a cold front push through, bringing winds from the northwest and, in all probability, a good influx of migrating monarchs into Cape May.

While we can't accurately predict how many monarchs might be coming to Cape May, we can predict that our programming will continue every day until late October.  During the last week we have presented our first 4 tagging demos, which are held at 2:00 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Cape May Point State Park through October 15.  On the weekend of Oct. 20 - 22 our programs move to the Cape May Convention Hall as part of the NJ Audubon Cape May Autumn Festival.  Mondays through Thursdays you can meet our team for an informal "drop in" program at 1 pm, at the Triangle Park, located at the junction of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues in Cape May Point.  Drop-in programs continue until October 26.

We'd like to share a few highlights from the first few demos of 2017.

We start with a short talk about monarch
biology and our project's work.

Then we break into smaller groups, and a member
of our staff demonstrates tagging technique.

Once the monarch is tagged, one or more
volunteers get to be the "launching pad."

Sometimes a monarch will stay on the launching pad
before taking off to continue its migration.
It can be magical to watch a monarch up close!

There's no age limit for releasing a newly tagged monarch.
And off it goes!

We usually have many monarchs to observe, tag, and release.
Come with your curiosity and questions, and be ready to have
your sense of wonder activated!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't bring monarchs from elsewhere to Cape May!

URGENT REQUEST: Please don't bring monarchs from elsewhere to Cape May. Two reasons for this:
1. It's bad for our research. We have censused the monarchs migrating through Cape May for more than 25 years; monarchs brought from elsewhere can give us erroneous results and negate a quarter century's worth of work.
2. It's bad for the monarchs. Cape May is a tough place for monarchs, they have to cross the open water of Delaware Bay when they leave here. Monarchs from other places may not need to undertake a risky water crossing if left in place.
Many thanks! Please come to Cape May to see the monarchs that are naturally finding their way to our peninsula.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Come to Mexico with the Monarch Monitoring Project

The monarch migration is underway, with monarchs passing through Cape May on their way to Mexico. In late February, 2018, NJ Audubon's eco-travel program is also heading to Mexico, on a new tour that will visit several of the reserves where millions of monarchs overwinter.  The trip will be led by Mark Garland, Director of the Monarch Monitoring Project, and Mexican guides.  Spaces are limited; for more information, see the NJ Audubon eco-travel pages at