Monarch Migration at Cape May — Fall 2012

This fall’s Monarch Migration at Cape May has been magical. Each cold front has brought another wave.

Flights on September 23 and 24, 2012,

were steady all day long with Monarchs floating down the beachfront from dawn till dusk. Each of those evenings, by late afternoon, Monarchs began gathering at roost sites in Red Cedars near blooming Groundsel-tree in dunes along the beachfront and in deciduous trees near blooming English Ivy along the rural streets of Cape May Point.

Even nasty looking Common Milkweed is still vital to Monarchs, leave it standing through fall

Still finding Monarch eggs and caterpillars

And through it all we’re still finding Monarch caterpillars on milkweed, so please, please, please, DO NOT cut down the milkweed in your garden. Despite looking “done” it’s still helping the Monarch population swell.

Monarch Roost, 7:00 to 8:30 a.m.

Yesterday morning (September 25), at first light, I visited sites where Monarchs had roosted through the night. As the sun warmed them and they were able to fly, they dropped down onto blooming Groundsel-tree and nectared heartily. It was magical – no other way to describe it!

Even though I’ve witnessed Monarch evening roosts dozens of times over the many falls we’ve lived in Cape May County, I can never get enough of them. Red Cedar trees sometimes adorned with a thousand plus Monarchs, wings closed and looking like dead leaves until a newcomer flies by and they all open their wings as if to say, “Join us, this is a safe place to rest.”

Winds switched the morning of September 25, coming from the southwest – a headwind for a migrating Monarch (winds that do not help them continue their migration south). With this being the case, many Monarchs could not continue their migration, but are still around Cape May.

Next coldfront: Thursday, September 27

Another cold front is predicted for Thursday (September 27), winds that just might bring another wave of southbound Monarchs.

Monarchs on a blooming male Groundsel-tree, September 25, 2012

If you’ve never witnessed the magic of the Monarch Migration at Cape May, this is the fall to do it. Not every autumn is accented with magical Monarch flights, but this fall is proving to be just such a fall.

Don’t contact me to learn if there’s to be a Monarch flight

I may be out of town and you might miss one.

Instead, pay close attention to the weather

  • If it turns cold and you’ve got to track down flannel pajamas
  • and pull up the comforter at night
  • get to Cape May the next day!
  • That cold weather is a cold front – with north and northwest winds – winds that carry Monarchs and other migrants (Red Bats, dragonflies, warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, raptors, and so much more) out to the coast and south to land’s end at Cape May Point!
  • If the weather is warm and Indian summer-like, well . . . the winds are probably from the south and pushing migrants away from Cape May. If that is the case, well, don’t bother coming. But if it is cold and blustery, get here quickly.

Monitor the 3 websites I’ve listed below and read the posts

On these posts, folks often predict when they feel the next good Monarch flight might happen. Monarchs often gather at roosts in the dunes and around Cape May Point from about 3 p.m. on at the end of a good flight. If there’s been a cold front any time from mid-September through October, Monarchs may pour to the tip, Cape May Point.

I’ll be sharing my “Milkweeds & Monarchs” program on Monday evening, October 1, 2012, at the County Library, 30 Mechanic Street, Cape May Court House, NJ.  Join me!  It’s FREE.

Good luck with the miracle of migrating Monarchs!

See you in the field.

16 Replies to “Monarch Migration at Cape May — Fall 2012”

  1. Pat, those are super pics of a super event. I wish I could get down there, but not until next week! I didn’t have too many Monarchs in my garden this year. So it’s good to see the numbers you are getting down there.

    1. Hi Sandra, if cold fronts keep coming our way, I’ll bet that you’ll see some Monarch gatherings when you’re able to get down here. Looking like one of those magical monarch falls.

  2. Wow. That’s amazing. We had a banner year for Monarchs here in Saskatchewan. Monarchs are generally rare here, but this year was thought to be the largest migration numbers in 140 years. I didn’t get to see any as far north as I live, but I was happy to see Monarchs when I visited Southern Ontario.

    1. Scott, how neat that you had a banner year in Saskatchewan and that you got to see Monarchs in southern Ontario. The amazing numbers we’re seeing here may include some of those very Monarchs that you saw. Fun to think about! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautiful pictures…I’ve been trying to plan my visits to NJ each year while monarchs are at the point. I can’t seem to get there at the right time! I’m going to try again Thurs or Friday, because a cold front is coming through on Sat. Hopefully they’ll be there! Thanks so much for all of your posted information.

    1. Hi Pat, You may be in luck. Looking like this coming weekend could be another BIG Monarch push. Hope you get to see the Magic of it all.

        1. Hi Pat, Beyond attending the Monarch Demos and looking at the Monarch Blog (both of which I suggested above in my post), you can call the Cape May Bird Observatory’s Northwood Center (609-884-2736) by 2 or 3 p.m. and see if they know where Monarchs are roosting that afternoon / evening. Good luck!

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