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 1, 2019

Day 1, 2019

September 1 marks the beginning of our field season each year.  Now our 30th field season is underway.  Our two field naturalists, Anya Held and Victoria Cope, went to work, learning the census protocol and meeting several Cape May Point residents whose gardens will host lots of migrating monarchs.  They also netted and tagged their first monarchs.  They'll both be working from now until mid-November, counting monarchs, tagging monarchs, and talking with hundreds of people about monarch biology and conservation.  If you see one of them in Cape May Point with a butterfly net in hand, don't hesitate to stop and ask them about monarch butterflies and the work of our project.

Anya Held with her first tagged monarch

Victoria Cope with her first tagged monarch

In addition to informal meetings, you can come to one of our formal educational programs.  Here's our schedule for 2019:

Monarch tagging demos: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Sept. 7 through Oct. 13.  Our signature program, held at the East Shelter of Cape May Point State Park, begins at 2:00 pm with an overview of monarch biology and conservation, and a description of the work of the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  

Project founder Dick Walton discussing monarch biology at a tagging demo
After the 20 - 30 minute talk, our staff bring out monarch butterflies for tagging.  Several members of our team are always present, so we can split into small groups and everyone in attendance can get a close-up look at the process.

See monarchs tagged at close range
NJ Audubon's Cape May Fall Festival: Running Oct. 17 - 20 this year, our fall festival is NJ Audubon's biggest event of the year.  On Oct. 18, 19, and 20 we'll have a table and some monarch caterpillars and chrysalides at the Cape May Convention Hall, where there will be a series of presentations and booths with lots of vendors.  We will offer several tagging demos at the Convention Hall, or visit us any time to talk about monarchs with members of our team.  We'll also have an illustrated talk about monarch biology and conservation as one of the festival events.  Learn more about this great annual event online here:

Drop-in programs at Triangle Park: Mondays through Thursdays from Sept. 9 through Oct. 25.  On the days when we don't have one of our formal tagging demos, you can still meet one or more members of our team for an informal chat at 1 pm in Cape May Point's Triangle Park, located at the corner of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues.  When monarchs are present at the park you may see an impromptu tagging demonstration, but at the very least you can learn about the work we do and ask questions about monarch biology and conservation.

Releasing a recently tagged monarch at Triangle Park
We look forward to seeing many monarch enthusiasts at Cape May Point during the next two months, both at our formal programs and informally as we observe and tag monarchs in the parks and gardens around the Point.

Finally, we are often asked to predict when the most monarchs will be in Cape May.  Sadly, we don't know.  Most monarchs usually migrate through Cape May Point between about Sept. 10 and Oct. 25, but within that period there will be days with lots of monarchs and days with very few.  Weather is often a key factor, as our biggest flights usually follow the passage of an autumn cold front, when cool winds from the northwest push many migrant butterflies down onto the Cape May Peninsula.  The same winds usually bring the best bird migrations onto the Cape as well.  But the butterflies surprise us sometimes, with big numbers occasionally showing up on other winds, or low numbers arriving after a classic fall cold front.  The best we can do is promise to post something quickly when we see a rapid increase in monarch numbers, both here on the blog and on our project Facebook page, simply titled Cape May Monarchs.

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