CAPE MAY POINT — With five of 10 weeks of monarch counts completed, this year is the best for the migration of the butterflies in four years.

“But it’s still below 2012, which was quite a big year,” said Mark Garland, director of the Cape May Bird Observatory’s Monarch Monitoring Project. “Exactly what is yet to come we don’t know, but it is encouraging.”

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He said he’s heard anecdotal reports there are plenty of monarchs left to the north that will be part of the annual fall migration to Mexico, as temperatures have remained mild.

And the project’s educational programs, including public demonstrations of monarch tagging, are attracting lots of people this year, Garland said.

“A bunch of our demos have had more than 100 people,” he said. “People are seeing them in their own neighborhoods and thinking, ‘I’ll bet it’s really good in Cape May.’”

There have been several nights when CMBO staff and volunteers have found large roosts of the butterflies on trees and shrubs here. CMBO is part of New Jersey Audubon.

“When that happens, it’s because the winds are not conducive to them leaving, and it gets cool at night. Those are the conditions that give us those large roosts,” Garland said.

Winds pushing up from the south or strong winds from any direction throw a roadblock up to movement.

“They don’t want to fight those winds across the bay,” Garland said.

That leaves large numbers clustering in Cape May until conditions change.

“Last Monday we had ideal conditions, and a bunch took off and flew across to Delaware,” pretty much at first light, Garland said.

While their leave-taking is disappointing to the folks in Cape May, who love seeing large numbers of monarchs mass there, it’s what’s best for the monarchs.

It’s great to see them get good conditions for the 15-mile bay crossing, Garland said.

To learn more about the Cape May Monarchs, go to MonarchMonitoringProject.com.

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Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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