The Monarch Monitoring Project of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory on Sunday started its 30th year of counting and tagging migrating monarch butterflies, which have slowly been building a population back up since their numbers crashed several years ago.

It’s the 30th year of the program to study the migration and population of the butterflies that travel from the U.S. to Mexico and back each year.

Two interns will be visible throughout lower Cape during the project duration.

“They’ll both be working from now until mid-November, counting monarchs, tagging monarchs and talking with hundreds of people about monarch biology and conservation,” MMP Director Mark Garland announced Sunday on the MMP blog.

The interns will drive slowly around Cape May Point and surrounding areas at specific times each day, counting how many monarchs they see on the same route. They will also net, tag and release as many of the insects as possible.

Many people ask the MMP each year to predict when the most monarchs will be in Cape May, but the project cannot predict it, Garland said.

“Most monarchs usually migrate through Cape May Point between about Sept. 10 and Oct. 25, but within that period there will be days with lots of monarchs and days with very few,” Garland said. “Weather is often a key factor, as our biggest flights usually follow the passage of an autumn cold front, when cool winds from the northwest push many migrant butterflies down onto the Cape May Peninsula.”

But he said the butterflies surprise him sometimes, “with big numbers occasionally showing up on other winds, or low numbers arriving after a classic fall cold front. The best we can do is promise to post something quickly when we see a rapid increase in monarch numbers, both here on the blog and on our project Facebook page, simply titled Cape May Monarchs.”

Here is the schedule of public events:

Monarch tagging demos will be 2 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Sept. 7 through Oct. 13 at the East Shelter of Cape May Point State Park. After a 20 to 30 minute talk, staff will show participants how they tag monarchs with tiny numbered labels, so their movements can be monitored.

N.J. Audubon’s Cape May Fall Festival will be Oct. 17 to Oct. 20. On Oct. 18, 19, and 20, MMP will have a table and some monarch caterpillars and chrysalides at Cape May Convention Hall, where there will be a series of presentations, booths with vendors, and tagging demos. For more information on the event see njaudubon.org/ nja-events/cape-may-fall-festival.Drop-in programs at Triangle Park will run 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays from Sept. 9 through Oct. 25. Meet one or more members of the team for an informal chat in Cape May Point’s Triangle Park, at the corner of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues.

Contact: 609-272-7219

MPost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

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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