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.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

October 3 Update

Monarch numbers around Cape May Point were exceptionally low last Saturday, to the dismay of many visitors.  Numbers have been gradually increasing each day since then, but there still has been no major influx, and we continue to receive reports of large numbers monarchs from observers to our north.  We expect to see lots of October monarchs, but we still can't be sure of how many will come here, nor when the better days will be.

Wednesday was an exceptionally hot day, and our team found a fair number of monarchs around Cape May Point, especially areas closest to the beach.  For the last two weeks a preferred nectar source has the native wild sunflowers of Cape May Point State Park.  These flowers are now fading, but the seaside goldenrod has started to bloom along the upper beach and dunes of Cape May Point.  These beautiful flowers are also common along the Promenade in Cape May City, and many can also be seen in gardens around Cape May.  Seaside goldenrod is a favorite nectar source for monarchs all along the Atlantic coastal migratory route.

Monarch on native wild sunflower at the State Park
 Thursday has dawned cloudy and cool, and badly needed rain may fall (we all are hoping for some rain, our gardens and wetlands are extremely dry).  The wind is blowing from the east at 15 - 20 mph, so an increase in monarch numbers seems unlikely today.  A cold front is predicted to pass over the Cape Thursday night, bringing northwest winds of 15 to 20 mph on Friday.  Northwest winds are generally the best for monarch migration into Cape May, but it's usually better if the winds aren't so strong.  Winds like those that are predicted can sometimes blow monarchs out to sea, which few can survive.  It's one of the reasons we ask monarch enthusiasts to never bring monarchs from elsewhere to Cape May.

Monarch on seaside goldenrod in Cape May Point
What do we expect to see on Friday?  There's a good chance that many monarchs will be moving into Cape May, and if that happens, this could be a good weekend to visit and see good numbers of monarchs at Cape May Point.  We'll be sure to update, we could certainly be wrong this time.  If you do come in search of monarchs, the seaside goldenrod along the upper beach and the dunes of Cape May Point are likely to be the best viewing locations.  Do not enter the vegetated area of the upper beach or the dunes for any reason, stay on the footpaths at each of the dune crossings or walk along the open beach and view from there.  Almost every dune crossing at Cape May Point has a viewing platform and most have benches, these are great spots for monarch viewing.  There may also be lots of monarchs this weekend along the waterfront in Cape May City; a walk along the paved waterfront Promenade should provide excellent monarch viewing.  If there are a lot of monarchs present, we could see good numbers gathering into overnight roosts, most frequently found in the conifer trees along Harvard Ave. in the community of Cape May Point.

Don't forget to come see our team at our tagging demos, held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2:00 pm.  No reservations are needed, just head to the East Picnic Shelter at Cape May Point State Park.  It's the perfect time and place to get an update on how the migration is proceeding, and for tips on the best viewing locations.

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