On September 18 of this year, a phenomenal event occurred in Cape May, New Jersey — over 500,000 Monarchs migrated through in a single day. It was the greatest migration that has been seen there in years (and possibly ever).
The Monarch are migrating and they are coming down from Canada and points north, following the winds similar to the great songbird and hawk migrations that lead birds to the tip of Cape May, crossing the Delaware Bay’s 14 mile stretch of water and into Virginia.
Since that big push in September, Monarchs have been sighted more around here. A nice report from Denise Gibbs on the Monarch Watch listserv provided this glimpse into what she is seeing on the coast:
Oct 10, 6:45am- 9am, Chincoteague NWR, Assateague Island, VA
A dense fog shrouded the refuge this morning, and everything was covered with dew, including the monarchs. The beads of water on their wings glistened with the first rays of sunlight. At 7:10am they spread their wings to bask. The weather conditions were full sun, 68 degrees, wind NE at 2mph, and humid (the salt marsh mosquitoes have been anxiously awaiting these conditions). At 7:25am the first monarchs lifted off, even though their wings still looked damp. It was finally time to leave this island.
I found a small roost in the shade and discovered one of the monarchs I tagged 3 days ago in almost the same spot. Thanks to the seaside goldenrod, his abdomen was noticeably larger than it was 3 days ago.
By 7:45am the NE wind had increased to 5mph. Most of the monarchs had lifted off and headed southwest toward Tom’s Cove. I stood at the water’s edge, happy to see that the surface was a mirror for the sky. I watched the monarchs fly out over the cove, turn around to head back to land then head back out again. They appeared to be testing the wind, to make sure it really was safe to cross water. I have never seen this hesitancy on good migration winds. Finally the monarchs relinquished their control to the wind and off they soared over calm blue water. Bye monarchs. Thank you for all the gifts you gave me this week.
By 9am there was not a monarch to be found anywhere. But at 9:30 the winds shifted and were ENE at 7mph– perfect conditions to bring any monarchs still left at sea back to land. I will be out there waiting for them.
The Monarchs now continue their migration 2000 miles to the mountains of Mexico for their winter slumber. Along this journey it is critical that they find the fall wildflowers: goldenrod, asters, new york ironweed and more, to feed upon and build up their fat reserves not only for the long trip to Mexico but also to get through the winter and start their migration home.