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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ten more Cape May monarchs recovered in Mexico

Exciting news arrived this week, as the folks from Monarch Watch (you can see their website here) published details about the monarch tags recovered in Mexico this year.  Ten that were tagged in Cape May County by staff and volunteers of the Monarch Monitoring Project were among the hundreds of tags recovered.  The earliest was tagged on Sept. 8, the latest on Oct. 19, and six of the ten were tagged during the last 10 days of September.  Here are the specific data:

XGT 908, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/8/17
XGS 152, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/11/17
XGT 063, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/21/17
XGY 204, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/22/17
XGY 220, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/23/17
XGS 313, tagged in Cape May Point on 9/23/17
XGR 770, tagged in Stone Harbor on 9/28/17
XGU 904, tagged in Cape May City on 9/30/17
XGU 134, tagged in Cape May Point on 10/10/2017
XGS 711, tagged in Cape May Point on 10/19/17

Like most monarch researchers east of the Rocky Mountains, we use tags issued by the Monarch Watch program, which operates out of the University of Kansas.  Many readers of this blog are familiar with the tagging and have seen our tagging demonstrations in Cape May Point each autumn, but we'll supply a bit of information for those who might not know.  The tags (shown above) are small, adhesive disks that we apply to the central area of the underside of a monarch hindwing.  The process is quick, painless, and doesn't change the flight of the butterfly.  The last line on the tag is a unique code that is never repeated -- in recent years the codes consist of three letters followed by three numbers, XGU 774 in the example above.  The other lines list an e-mail address (TAG@KU.EDU), the project name "Monarch Watch" in red, and a toll-free phone number (1-888-TAGGING).  If you ever see a monarch bearing a tag, try to read the code on that last line (enlarged digital photos can often reveal the tag code) and report the tag number, location, date and time to Monarch Watch either with a phone call or an e-mail message.

More than 5,000 monarchs were tagged in Cape May County by the Monarch Monitoring Project team last fall, so 10 of these butterflies found in Mexico might not seem like very many.  But take a look at the photo at left, from late February at the Cerro Pelón Monarch Sanctuary in Mexico.  It's impossible to pick out a tagged monarch from these massive aggregations.  Most of the tag recoveries from Mexico are from monarchs that perish during the winter months.  Even in good years it's estimated that perhaps as many as 10% of the monarchs don't make it through the prolonged period of winter dormancy.  The guides who lead tourists at the Mexican Sanctuaries search for monarch wings bearing tags on the forest floor, and are given a small monetary reward for each tag that they find.  We believe that the vast majority of tagged monarchs that winter in Mexico are never noticed, and that each recovered tag represents many more that made the trek.

Our 2018 field season will begin during the last week of August, when we will be training our interns.  Censuses and tagging begin on September 1, and continue through at least October 31.  We are accepting applications for our two intern positions, send an e-mail message to for the job description and application procedures.

2017 Interns Rebecca Zerlin and Stephanie Augustine
educate members of the public at a tagging demonstration.

We are in the midst of our annual fundraising effort, hoping to achieve our goals so that we can purchase tags, print brochures, and cover the salaries and expenses of our two interns.  The "CMBO Monarchists" team competing in the World Series of Birding hopes to raise the $12,000 needed for our project budget.  We're a little more than halfway to our goal.  If you'd like to support our work, please see the details here.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Help Monarchs in Cape May and in Mexico

Today we are asking you to consider two fundraising efforts for projects that help monarch butterflies.  Here in Cape May, NJ, a team called the "CMBO Monarchists" is preparing to compete in the World Series of Birding.  Every team in this friendly bird-finding competition raises funds for a conservation cause, and the CMBO Monarchists raise money for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  This event has become the project's major source of funds, accounting for more than half of the MMP's modest annual budget.  You can make contributions online here:

The CMBO Monarchists travel only by foot and bicycle during
the World Series of Birding.  Here the team listens for migrating
birds during the pre-dawn hours.

Down in Mexico, a group is raising money to hire an arborist to help protect the forest at Cerro Pelón, one of the few places in the mountains of Mexico where our monarch butterflies spend the winter.  Here's where you can make a contribution to this important project:

Monarch butterflies in the forest at Cerro Pelón, Mexico