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A Research and Education Project of New Jersey Audubon's
Cape May Bird Observatory
Cape May Point, NJ

The Monarch Monitoring Project (MMP), established in 1990, is a research and education program focusing on the fall migration of monarch butterflies along the Atlantic coast. For over two decades the MMP has gathered data on monarchs moving through Cape May during September and October. MMP staff and volunteers also conduct informational programs on monarch biology and tagging. This website provides details of MMP activities.



2013 - Preseason Musings and News

It's difficult to think about the 2013 Monarch season at Cape May without looking back over our shoulders. The 2012 season will likely be remembered best for its final days. Sandy the super storm provided a larger than welcome end that, for the first time in memory, caused MMP personnel to cancel the last 2 days of the road census. Of course the real significance of this historic storm was (and is) the devastation along much of New Jersey's coastline. Cape May, in contrast to points northward, was spared Sandy's full force. So we begin the 2013 season mindful of the many communities still recovering. Perhaps the passage of a monarch will in some way lighten their load.

In contrast to 2012 when we began the season predicting above average numbers of monarch migrants along the Atlantic Coast, the preseason indicators this year are a bit grim. The North American Butterfly Association's mid-summer census numbers (at least those I am aware of) were below average for monarchs. In addition, anecdotal accounts of summer resident monarchs in the Northeast and in Cape May all speak of below average numbers.

Of course Team Monarch knows that Cape May often has a surprise or two – especially in fall. And in fact we have several reasons to begin the season on an upbeat note. We are pleased to announce that New Jersey Audubon's Dale Rosselet has taken over a number of the administrative duties for the Monarch Monitoring Project. As Vice President of Education at NJA, Dale has for a number of years promoted monarch education in various venues around the state. So Dale brings to us both a passion for monarchs as well as her educational expertise. Welcome Dale! We would also like to thank David Mizrahi, Vice President for Research, NJA , for his support over the last decade.

Last, but certainly not least, we welcome Samantha Wehman as our 2013 Field Technician. Samm comes highly recommended with experience in both wildlife research and education. A recent graduate of Rutgers University, Samm has worked on New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife Beach Nesting Shorebirds Project and led bird walks in Cape May. Samm has a passion for insects and especially butterflies. We welcome her to Team Monarch.

2012

Their springtime arrival is often a bellwether for monarchs in North America. When they arrive and in what numbers often foretells the relative size of the fall migration. Of course this is not so much augury as it is common sense. The earlier the adults begin reproducing in our milkweed patches the more offspring they will produce. This spring monarchs arrived early and in good numbers and by mid-summer most monarch watchers around the northeast had a sense 2012 migration would be a good one. And so it was!

Julia Druce, a native of New Jersey, joined Team Monarch as this season's field assistant. A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in biology, Julia spent the summer at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Colorado where she conducted research on butterfly population ecology. Once she arrived in Cape May it didn't take long for Julia to impress her co-workers with her energy and passion for the job at hand. Whether it was counting and tagging monarchs or helping to explain monarch biology to our Demo crowds Julia played an important role in a very busy season. On September 30th Julia counted a total of 891 monarchs on the census – the top count of the season. Our thanks to Julia go with the reminder that we hope to see her back at The Point soon.

The numbers below tell the story of an above average monarch migration along the Atlantic coast this fall. In fact by season's end (one cut short by super storm Sandy) our totals for the Road Census rank the migration as one of the strongest we have recorded in Cape May. Interestingly our above average season was in stark contrast to a dismal inland monarch migration through the center of the continent.



Number of Census Runs Total Numbers of Monarchs Hours of Observation Average Monarch/Hour
156 8092 51.02 183.15


2011

As predicted in this year's preseason news the addition of Mark Garland to our staff was a boon to both our bottom line and our education and research efforts. For a few of the details see:

Monarchists: World Series of Birding 2011

Mike Crewe, CMBO's Program Director, also strengthened our efforts by coordinating MMP efforts with CMBO programs.

We were also fortunate to have two field assistants this season. Rebecca Allmond and Tori Pocius both arrived in Cape May with a passion for monarchs as well as previous research experience. While eager to hit the ground running, Tori and Rebecca faced the reality of a very slow September and spent more time dead heading the buddleia than tagging monarch butterflies. Fortunately by early October a change in the weather was accompanied by a flood of monarchs. Rebecca described week 5 as "monarch mania" and it got even better the next week. It's like that in Cape May in fall. Warm, summer-like days with balmy southerly breezes that seem like they will never let up. But then the wind swings into the north and it all happens at once - butterflies, birds, and dragonflies seem to be everywhere. And Team Monarch gets very busy with tagging, counting, and talking with hundreds of visitors about monarchs and their migration. Thanks in large part to Tori and Rebecca we were able to share our message as well as complete our season's research. Tori added a postscript to the season by joining Lincoln Brower as a research assistant in his lab.



Number of Census Runs Total Numbers of Monarchs Hours of Observation Average Monarch/Hour
160 4384 55.15 85.29

2010

After a very slow 2009 season Team Monarch had high hopes for this fall's flight. Jenny Howard this year's MMP Field technician observed an average of 26.01 monarchs per hour on the first week of our road census. As we were redoubling our efforts to strengthen our ties with CMBO, we were pleased to be working with Don Freiday, a NJ Audubon staffer with an active interest in monarchs and our research in particular.

While week #2 saw an increase in migrant monarchs through Cape May, an orange blizzard hit in the middle of week #3. Even by historic standards this was a huge flight. On the 3 road census runs on September 18th Jenny Howard and Michael O%u2019Brien recorded 1592 monarchs in a total of 60 minutes of observation! Those of us (including yours truly) who were not in Cape May for this flight were hopeful for a repeat performance later in the season.

While we didn't have a flight to match week #3 we did have a steady flow of monarchs throughout most of the season. Jenny was a star of our State Park workshops and was making plans to head for the Bahamas to study Kirtland%u2019s warblers this winter. Many thanks to Jenny and special thanks to Louise Zemaitis, our field director, as well as the many volunteers whose efforts kept our project running smoothly throughout September and October.

Finally, and at the risk of beating my own drum, I%u2019m pleased to announce that Monarch Net has honored our project and yours truly with their %u201Ccitizen-scientist%u201D salute. Details on their website at:

Monarch Net Scientists-of-the-Month



Number of Census Runs Total Numbers of Monarchs Hours of Observation Average Monarch/Hour
160 6939 51.70 118.85

2009

As the numbers show, 2009 was a slow year for monarchs. But anyone who has visited Cape May Point in fall knows that one day can make a season. A flood of accipiters in the morning, a dragonfly push at mid-day and monarchs by the dozens coming to roost in the evening light. And yes, we had a few days just like that in 2009. Everyone on Team Monarch waits for those days and the old hands have been blessed by many.

For me, one thing that adds to the pleasure of these "perfect days" is to be with someone experiencing the magic for the first time. And Claire Iseton, our research intern for 2009, was not shy about expressing her excitement about monarchs and merlins! While this was Claire's first fall in Cape May, her undergraduate studies and previous research had focused on migration - not monarchs but sea turtles. And it was not long after Claire began helping out with our demos that she adroitly included some facts about these ocean-going migrants. With Claire's permission I am sharing here a few of her words - words that express both her enthusiasm for Cape May and the value of her experience with MMP.

The season has ended and I find myself wishing that there were more Monarchs for me to chase around the Point. This . . . has been one of the most valuable work experiences I have had in my post-undergraduate career. My work here in Cape May has strengthened my career goal to work with migratory species and left me with a now blossoming interest in insects and birds. Thank you for providing such an incredible opportunity this fall and for treating me like a member of the family.

After returning to her home in Texas we received this - So far I haven't found any Monarchs to tag down here, but there's been a lot of Mexican Silverspots to look at.Thanks again for lending your butterfly books out while I was there, I definitely have a whole new appreciation for all the really cool butterflies (and birds) you can see here.

Just weeks before the start of the 2010 MMP season Claire wrote to share some news - Things have been very busy down here in Texas - I wrapped up my work with the Park Service at the end of Sept. and because of a chance meeting this January with a Post-Doc researcher I will be heading into graduate school next year at Texas A&M at Galveston with funding! The birding and butterfly watching here has been amazing . . . I've seen a TON of Monarchs and Queens and gotten a bunch of life birds. Lots of fun spiders down here as well - not as many jumpers as I would like, but all the fun to look at!

I think it's fair to say Claire is well on her way to bigger and better things. We are proud she spent a fall with us and it is clear she left us with a bit of Cape May magic in her back pocket.



Number of Census Runs Total Numbers of Monarchs Hours of Observation Average Monarch/Hour
160 2942 49.03 34.67

2008

Although we often think about the Monarch Monitoring Project in terms of census data xx and numbers of monarchs tagged or recaptured, the project exists because of the dedication, cooperation, and enthusiasm of our workers. No one exemplified these passions better than George Myers. George passed away on August 13, 2008 - just weeks before the beginning of the monarch season. George worked with us for over a decade and always with extraordinary good humor as well as a shining smile. We dedicate the 2008 MMP season to our friend George Myers. We will miss you George.

While the number of monarchs passing through Cape May was below average (see, at bottom) in 2008, we were pleased to learn just prior to the beginning of the 2009 season that 7 of "our" monarchs (all tagged in Cape May Point, NJ) made it to Mexico. Here is the list as reported by Louise Zemaitis.

  • LAE 184 - female, tagged by Erin Cord - 9/24/08
  • LAA 536 - male, tagged by Paige Cunningham - 10/3/08
  • LAA 563 - male, tagged by Paige Cunningham - 10/4/08
  • LAG 439 - female, tagged by Patsy Eickelberg - 10/4/08
  • LAE 621 - male, tagged by Erin Cord - 10/5/08
  • LAA 921 - female, tagged by Patsy Eickelberg - 10/8/08
  • LAG 439 - female, tagged by Patsy Eickelberg - 10/4/08
Number of Census Runs Total Numbers of Monarchs Hours of Observation Average Monarch/Hour
160 565 47.2 30.11

2007

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While it didn't compare with last season's deluge of monarchs, the 2007 migration showed more or less average numbers of monarchs passing through Cape May. As is often the case, it is well after the season is over before we know about many of our successes. Recaptures of monarchs tagged in Cape May by MMP workers included two individuals in Florida, one in Apalachacola and one in El Joben. To date two monarchs tagged in 2007 have been recaptured in Mexico - one was tagged by Louise Zemaitas and one by Bradley Smith. Louise and Bradley, the MMP's first mother and son team, added a special flavor to this year's work.

Speaking of Bradley, it reminds me of how time flies! Over two decades ago I met this budding naturalist (and his mom!) on a bird walk at Higbee Beach. Fortunately for us Brad focused a good deal of his talent and attention on insects. His official position as MMP Intern this year was not only a boon to our project but it also reminded us of the importance of the "next" generation. If we are successful in passing along our passion for monarchs to naturalists just beginning their careers we will have done our job well.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 4403 52.62 79.85

2006

beach monarch

The 2006 monarch flight was second only to the monster flight of 1999 and the numbers are reflected in our road census data. The peak of the migration occurred on September 25 (1884.21 Monarchs per hour), September 26 (2201.79), and October 3 (1537.50). These flights were reminiscent of seasons past when there were so many Monarchs that the Seaside Goldenrod in the dunes turned orange and black. We also observed a number of large roost sites in Cape May and Stone Harbor Point.

Over 4000 Monarchs were tagged in 2006. We received word that one of our Monarchs en route - Monarch #161177 tagged by Dianne Newman on October 2 was found alive at Folly Beach, Charleston County, South Carolina on October 13. That's about 545 miles from Bill and Edie Schuhl's garden in Cape May Point where it was tagged. An average of 50 miles per day!

We also recorded five more recoveries of MMP tagged Monarchs from the Mexican winter roosts. Dozens of volunteers and donors support our work each year. We thank each of them. Major funding for the Monarch Monitoring Project continues through the generous support of Beth Van Vleck.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 11349 51.80 202.08

2005 2004 2003 2002 2001

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2005
The 2005 season was a "bounce back" season for the monarchs at Cape May. After several "down" years monarchs showed up in good numbers and kept us busy late into the season. Ordinarily our biggest pushes come in September and early October. This year the largest flights of the fall were on October 17, 18, and 19. The October 18th census runs averaged over 896 Monarchs per hour - our latest "big day" to date.

Each year Monarch Monitoring Project efforts are bolstered by the courtesy of several very special Cape May Point residents. Their landscaping efforts have resulted in gardens and shrubs that act as magnets to migrating monarchs. The monarchs benefit from these important nectar sources, using them to fuel-up for their epic migration. MMP staff and volunteers benefit too, as these special yards provide ideal places for us to conduct tagging activities. The property owners have invited us into their yards and gardens, often with a smile and a friendly wave. We appreciate the courtesy of these kind folks and want them to know that they play a very special part in the Monarch Monitoring Project.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 3730 52.53 65.79

2004
The 2004 season was a portrait of both our hopes and our fears. After two below average seasons (2002 and 2003) Monarch researchers were hopeful that numbers of migrants would rebound and that once again Cape May would play host to multitudes of monarchs. Unfortunately, when the final census run was complete and the numbers were tallied, average numbers of monarchs observed per day set a record low for the history of our census (see table below). A paper (in press) by Walton, Brower, and Davis analyzing the census shows that previous periods of one or two down years have always been followed by a rebound in monarch numbers. We now have data for a 3 year down turn in migrant populations and will be paying particularly close attention to monarch numbers in 2005. Lu Ann

On the brighter side Paige Cunningham, our seasonal field technician, hosted an ever increasing number of scheduled monarch demonstrations and improptu tagging sessions. Interest in Monarch butterflies has never been greater and Paige along with other members of Team Monarch talked with hundreds of adults and children about the lives of monarchs and the plight of the migratory generation. Lu Ann Daniels (pictured right), a perennial MMP volunteer, conserves gas as she tags monarchs.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 452 49.77 8.45

2003

The 2003 migration reminded us more than ever that the weather is always the greatest influence of what we see here in Cape May. The monarch flight serves as an excellent barometer. It started off with a nice burst of activity with an early September cold front, was hampered by two hurricanes and easterly winds through most of the month, and then went through a period of steady activity with successive cold fronts.

Louise Zemaitis

So wrote Louise Zemaitis in her summary of the 2003 season for the Peregrine Observer - The Journal of the Cape May Bird Observatory. Louise has worked for the MMP since its inception. Besides her perennial job as MMP coordinator Louise has also plied her talents as researcher, educator, artist, author and cheerleader. Much of our success is due to Louise's heroic efforts. Yea Louise!! The Monarch Monitoring Project depends on dedicated workers and volunteers with a love of nature in general and a special place in their heart for the monarch butterfly. The 2003 team included Christine Austin - MMP field technician and research assistants Michael O'Brien, Patsy Eickelberg, LuAnn Tracy, Mark Garland, and Paige Cunningham. Additional field assistance was lent by Chris Kisiel, Tony Leukering, George Myers, and Bill and Edie Schuhl.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 2391 51.00 44.50

2002
roost Although the ultimate impact of last winters massive kill (see summary above) on the Mexican over-wintering grounds was less dire than some had projected, the number of monarchs recorded on our Road Census this fall was below average (see table below). While monarch numbers were down MMP workers were as busy as ever during September and October. A total of 3,760 Monarchs were tagged by MMP coordinator Louise Zemaitis, MMP field technician Janine McCabe, and research assistants Michael O'Brien, Patsy Eickelberg, LuAnn Tracy, Mark Garland, and Bradley Smith. Additional field assistance was lent by Paige Cunningham, Chris Kisiel, Steve Rodan, Bill Schuhl, and Edie Schuhl. Tagging efforts have been well rewarded during the last several years as indicated by last year's recoveries (16 and still counting) from Mexico.

Chris Kisiel, our 2001 field technician, continued her work on monarchs as an assistant to Dr. Lincoln Brower. Chris' work included laboratory analysis of monarch biochemistry and a trip to Mexico where she helped in the evaluation of monarch mortality at the over-wintering sights. Go Chris!

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 1584 47.92 31.42

2001
Chris Kisiel Led by the efforts of coordinator Louise Zemaitis and field technician Chris Kisiel (see image right - Chris in a bed of Monarchs), "Team Monarch" had a very successful 2001 season. Total numbers of Monarchs were up and this provided excellent opportunities for education and research. In all, 6,831 Monarchs were tagged and 5 of these were recaptured in Mexico. On our busiest days we were ably assisted by Michael O'Brien, Patsy Eickelberg, and LuAnn Tracy along with a bevy of other Monarch aficianados. Under the guidance of CMBO's David Mizrahi studies were initiated to assess the energetic condition of migrant Monarchs throughout the season. Thanks to funding from Bushnell sports Optics and Ann Louise Mapes through the Jodi Paterno Memorial Fund hundreds of Monarchs were captured, weighed & measured, and released. These data will be analyzed over time and should yield insights into the overall fitness of the migrants.

Perhaps the most significant recent chapter in the drama of the Monarch butterfly came from the Mexican over-wintering grounds. In mid-January two days of rain followed by a cold snap resulted in a massive Monarch kill. Professor Lincoln Brower, our chief research advisor, was in Mexico shortly after the event. Lincoln's research indicates that approximately 265 million Monarchs died at the Chincua (Zapatero) and Rosario (Conejos) colonies. This amounts to 75-80% of the overwintering Monarchs. Although the ultimate affect on Monarch populations is not yet known, such events are best evaluated by ongoing sampling research such as that conducted by the Monarch Monitoring Project at Cape May. Details of the January Monarch kill will be published by Brower, Garcia, Kurst, and Rendon in an upcoming volume.

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 3868 49.33 75.84

2000 1999 1998 1997 1996

2000
Following one of the more spectacular Monarch migrations in memory, the 2000 Monarch migration was a mere shadow of the movement seen through Cape May in 1999. The reasons for this change are unclear, but long term studies such as the Monarch Monitoring Project should provide some of the answers. MMP coordinator Louise Zemaitis and intern Jodi Paterno led the "Team Monarch" effort this year with notable assistance from Michael O'Brien and Gayle Steffy. Additional support was lent by Bonnie Smith, Jane Kashlak, and Renee Crouse. A total of 4,646 Monarchs were tagged by various members of the crew and to date recoveries have been reported from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Mexico! A highlight for the season was Dr. Lincoln Brower's visit to Cape May. Dr. Brower has been a leading force in the MMP since it's inception in 1990. Besides participating in tagging and censusing activities, Lincoln gave 2 "standing room only" lectures to monarch enthusiasts who were lucky enough to be in the area during his visit.

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I think the saying goes - the brighter the flame, the quicker it burns. It is always most difficult when it's one of your own flames that no longer burns brightly. On February 9, 2001, Jodi Paterno, CMBO's 2000 Monarch Monitoring Project intern, died in an automobile accident near Eugene, Oregon. Jodi was a free-spirited young woman who had a boundless lust for life and a tremendous reverence for nature. We will always fondly remember Jodi running barefoot around Cape May Point, swinging her butterfly net. Although we didn't know her long, we all felt we knew her well. She touched everyone she met, and the memory of her vitality is kindled in all of us.

-David Mizrahi, Vice-president for Research, CMBO

#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 1494 47.78 28.61

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1999
The 1999 MMP season was, in a word, fantastic! Louise Zemaitis directed operations and was ably assisted by MMP intern Meghan Walker. While the first two weeks of September seemed normal, the third week of the census saw the arrival of the leading edge of an avalanche of monarchs. The period from mid-September through mid-October 2000 shattered all previous records for sheer numbers of monarchs observed passing though Cape May. Chris Wood, CMBO's official Seawatch counter in Avalon counted 44,281 monarchs streaming by his observation point on October 1st. On October 2nd 2,836 monarchs were counted on the 3 census runs as an estimated quarter of a million monarchs moved through the area! Louise and Meghan, assisited by Michael O'Brien, Gayle Steffy, and Jim Dowdell were also busy with tagging activities. The team tagged a total of 5,384 monarchs during the fall season. As a result of these efforts 6 of our tagged monarchs were recovered in Mexico at the El Rosario site.

Monarch #182784, tagged and released by Meghan in Cape May at 1:00 PM on October 6 was recovered by Mark Garland on Fisherman's Island, VA the following day at 5:00 PM. The 2000 MMP season at Cape May established a number of bench marks for our project and we are looking forward to the new millenium.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 15738 43.75 328.56

1998
Early predictions for 1998 monarch migration were pessimistic. Several factors, including extremely dry conditions in the Mexican over-wintering grounds and a relatively wet early summer along with dry conditions during July and August in the monarch's northeastern breeding range did not bode well. Early September seemed to realize these predictions as few monarchs were seen in Cape May. Although there was a small wave of monarchs on September 11th and 12th, we were to wait until the last week of the month for the next substantial and sustained flight. The action continued through early October but thereafter slowed to a trickle, interspersed with several mid-October pushes. Below average seasonal totals for our 3 times a day census runs reflect a rather thin season.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
167 2350 48.05 46.82

Tagging activities were definitely the highlight of the season. Larissa Smith, MMP's 1998 research intern, along with Louise Zemaitis, Michael O'Brien, and Dick Walton caught and tagged over 7,000 monarchs! All our worked paid off when 7 of our tagged monarchs were recovered at the El Rosario site in Mexico. These are the first Mexican recoveries for the MMP and the first substantial indication that East coast monarchs do indeed winter at the Mexican wintering sites. Another exciting development this fall was Mark Garland's pilot project in Cape Charles, Virginia. Designed after the MMP, Garland evaluated the possibilities of another site for similar research. Concentrations of migrants were particularly heavy at Kiptopeke State Park and it was here that Mark recovered 4 monarchs tagged at Cape May Point.


1997
The 1997 fall monach migration was, in a word, spectacular! And once again NJAS/CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project was in full swing. MMP researchers conducting the Sepetember-October daily census counted 5,628 monarchs during 186 runs along the 5 mile route. A season total of 106 monarchs per hour of observation was the highest average since 1991. Elizabeth Hunter, MMP's intern, tagged over 4,000 monarchs including monarch # 104780 that, amazingly, was recaptured in the Bahama Islands. This ranks right up there with hen's teeth and dinosaur eggs on the rarity scale.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
186 5628 48.02 106.61

Those folks lucky enough to have been in the Cape May area on either September 19th or 26th were treated to a blizzard of monarchs. In fact, on the 26th, 652 monarchs were counted on the 3 census runs. This eclipsed all previous records for daily census run totals. Observers at the Hawk Watch, Higbees, Cape May Meadows, and even along the streets of downtown Cape May reported hundreds, even thousands of monarchs on both of these days.


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1996
MMANA continued to strengthen its program in 1995. With financial support from The Wildlife Conservation Society and CMBO, we began discussions with New Jersey Audubon Society with the goal of making our Monarch research and education efforts a permanent program under their auspices. Both Pete Dunne, Director of CMBO and Joan Walsh, CMBO Research Coordinator were involved. And we continued our "meat and potatoes" programs of censusing, tagging, and "Butterfly Walks and Monarch Talks." A serendipitous renaissance in butterflies and butterfly watching over the last several years had swelled the numbers of folks attending our programs. We were now hosting scores of interested adults and children. Monarch numbers for the season were relatively low, however, and although we had a slight push on the 18th of September, we waited in vain for the "big 19."


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
161 1266 48.6 25.64


1995 1994 1993 1992 1991

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1995
This was to be a watershed year. Thanks to the efforts of Pete Dunne and the staff of CMBO, MMANA - henceforth to be called the Monarch Monitoring Project (MMP), officially joined the New Jersey Audubon Society. CMBO educational and administrative resources strengthen all of MMP's programs while giving the project a permanent home base. An important initial move was CMBO's funding of a research intern position. And boy did we find an intern! Gayle Steffy, a veteran Monarch tagger from Lancaster Co., PA arrived on September 1st and stayed the season. Gayle's quiet manner and an early season dearth of Monarchs had some wondering just how she would do when the Monachs hit. Not to worry. When the first big wave rolled into Cape May on September 19th (there's that day again!) Gayle not only got excited, she got tagging. For the next 6 weeks it was hard to discern the blur of tags, nets, nimble fingers, and record sheets that was Gayle Steffy. When the dust settled Gayle had tagged over 5000 Monarchs including 501 Monarchs tagged on September 30th. All in all the 1996 Monarch season was a great success - a new beginning offering great promise for things to come.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
163 3030 45.02 58.91

1994
Monarch activity began early in 1994. Spring brought a handful of very early Monarch reports. In southern New Jersey Pat Sutton documented various sightings between April 11 and April 21 including 15 Monarchs seen in the Wildwood marshes on the 18th. Monarchs were also relatively numerous in the Northeast during the breeding season as reported on the summer Xerces/NABA Butterfly Counts. MMANA workers had good reason to anticipate a strong fall flight. And on September 19th we set a new record for a single day Monarchs count on our census runs. Three passes along the 5 mile route yielded 456 Monarchs! And we had begun to notice something special about September 19th. There seemed to be a fairly consistent peak of Monarch activity on this date in Cape May each fall. Because big Monarch flights are typically associated with the passage of cold fronts, weather plays a part in this timing but the September 19th "big day" appears to be fairly reliable.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
148 4103 42.1 86.30

The highlight for the season actually occurred in November - long after the Monarchs had passed through Cape May. On November 18th Ed Maas of Temple Texas found one of "our" tagged monarchs in his yard. This was our first long distance return! The Monarch had been tagged on September 19th by our tagging team which included Louise, Brad and Alec (Louise's sons and budding naturalists), and myself.


1993
The 1993 season began on a several positive notes. Thanks to the continuing cooperation and support of Lincoln Brower, MMANA received a sizable grant from the The Wildlife Conservation Society (New York Zoological Society). Our affiliation with New Jersey Audubon Society was also strengthened as Louise Zemaitis, a CMBO staffer, joined MMANA as Research Assistant.

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Actually, Louise has helped with MMANA since its inception applying her talents as artist, tagger, and teacher. Another innovation for 1993 was our affiliation with Global Lab. Students from 6 schools in the U.S and Mexico participated in a pilot project focusing on the topic of animal migration. As part of their studies students were linked via e-mail with MMANA researchers in Cape May. Daily numbers from our census were relayed to students for interpretation and discussion. Vince Elia, another CMBO staffer, also joined the MMANA team and carried out a series of cross-Delaware Bay censuses. Using the Cape May to Lewes, Delaware ferry Vince confirmed that monarchs do indeed cross the Bay and sometimes in large numbers. On September 23 Vince recorded 134 Monarchs on his round trip census. MMANA workers also had time to tag nearly 1,000 Monarchs. Finally, we continued our all important census. Results are in the following chart.


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
145 2857 40.9 62.90

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1992
By the fall of 1992 MMANA workers were better organized and ready to put in their first full season. Based on the previous years experience, we established a single, 5-mile census route running from Higbee Beach to the end of Alexander Ave. on Cape May Point (see graphic). The route would be run 3 times a day from September 1st. through October 31st. Monarchs were counted along the route by a single observer driving approximately 25 miles per hour. No stops were allowed to count specific concentrations of butterflies. Monarch totals, starting and elapsed times, and local weather conditions were recorded on each census. While we may have been better prepared, the Monarchs were engaged in a "no show." Actually, a severe winter kill at the Mexican over-wintering sites the previous February had resulted in very low numbers on the Northeastern breeding grounds. While it was instructive to document the correspondence in low numbers of summer residents and fall migrants, the census run seemed, at times, much longer than 5 miles. We kept busy, however, with various educational programs including several "Butterfly Walks and Monarch Talks" given at the CMPSP. Fortunately for us, the Monarch is one of those critters that just naturally draws a crowd. While not everyone can warm up to a fall-plumaged Bay-breasted Warbler, it's hard to find a soul that isn't fascinated by Monarchs. And promise a tagging demonstration - "You're going to put a tag on that little thing and then expect it to fly to Mexico???" - and you need crowd control! MMANA workers also spread the word about Monarch conservation through interviews with The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. And we kept on counting . . . But in the end, our Newsletter summarized the season in its opening sentence - "The 1992 fall migration of monarchs along the East coast was, in a word, dismal."


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
160 565 47.2 10.40

1991
After much preparation the Monarch Migration Association of North America (MMANA) came into being in early 1991. By the fall we had data sheets and methodologies ready for trial. Even more importantly we had the support of the Cape May Bird Observatory and its Director, Paul Kelinger as well as numerous individuals interested in monarch conservation. Our goals for the fall were to establish census routes and point counts in order to begin building a data base of monarch migration though Cape May. And WOW did we have monarchs to count. 1991 turned out to be a banner year for monarchs along the Atlantic coast. With help from fellow researcher Greg Dodge we counted and we counted. The following table presents the data for our census route(s).


#Census Runs Total Monarchs Hours of Observation Avg. Monarch/Hour
93 1759 11.5 142.20

BEGINNINGS

On October 10th, 1982 I visited Cape May, New Jersey. Like scores of other birders before and since, I was there to witness the legendary hawk migration. I was not disappointed. My journal entry for the day includes the following:

. . . the Peregrines were truly impressive - overhead, at eye level, stooping, close in and far off . . . the accipiters filled the sky . . . our most spectacular birds were at Higbee Beach around the time the front passed through (where) there were Sharpies and Cooper's Hawks zipping through the coastal forest and up over the dunes, soaring, chasing, flapping and gliding.

On that day alone, the hawk watcher at Cape May Point recorded xx 62 Cooper's Hawks, 2,622 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 50 Peregrines, and 130 Merlin! It was not the birds, however, that began what has become an annual passion. The next line in my journal says:

All day long we witnessed a phenomenal Monarch migration. The butterflies were as constant and continuous as the hawks.

During the ensuing 7 years I visited Cape May several times, always anticipating both the monarchs and the hawks. In the fall of 1990 I decided to spend 2 weeks in Cape May with the idea of planning a long-term research project on Monarch migration (what the heck - somebody has to do the work). I tried out several census methodologies at various places on Cape May Point. At Sunset Beach on September 27th in 8- one minute observation periods I counted 618 monarchs for an average of 77 monarchs per minute. The following day I counted over 1,000 monarchs streaming through Cape May Point State Park (CMPSP). Although there were plenty of monarchs, there were also many puzzles. One of my first discoveries, while counting Monarchs at CMPSP, was that the direction of the migratory flight seemed to reverse itself for no apparent reason. At one point a steady stream of Monarchs would be heading Southwest and then, within the space of 10 minutes, the whole flight would be going Northeast! When I returned home I puzzled over the data and even though there were more questions than answers, I was convinced Cape May would be an ideal site for my study. So . . . I wrote Lincoln Brower in December and we began discussions about setting up the project.