Cape May Migration

photo taken by me

This morning I rose bright and early for the two and a quarter hour drive to Cape May. I arrived right on time and met up with the other teachers from the Monarch Teacher Network. It was great seeing everyone! After catching up for a bit, I set out on the trail. (If anyone is looking for a great day trip, I highly recommend Cape May State Park!). I spent about an hour walking the trails out to the beach. It was relaxing and gorgeous. I saw 102 monarchs! The weather was warm and sunny, which meant the monarchs were nectaring as opposed to migrating. The birds were also feeding and I did not get to see any hawk clouds, but I saw a ton of migratory birds by themselves!

On the trails, I saw monarchs everywhere! They flew all around me, nectaring and slowly meandering south. I also saw swans, a yellow warbler, a great egret, a crane, sharpies, peregrine falcons, black vultures, and many other butterflies. Needless to say, my camera was constantly out! I ended up with some great shots, which I was very happy about

After I finished meandering along the trail, walking on the beach a bit, and then hanging out at the hawk pavilion, I headed out. First, I said goodbye to the MTN teachers still hanging around and had a great conversation with one of the teachers I took the workshop with 2 years ago. Hope is doing amazing work with her pre-schoolers and it was great to meet up with her again. Hopefully, we will see each other in Mexico later this winter!

After leaving the park, I decided to swing by a few other known monarch hangouts in Cape May Point. It turns out that almost everyone who lives in Cape May Point has some type of butterfly garden, due to the fact that it is the home to such a large migration flyway. I did get a chance to stop at the visitor center and gift shop, and I am now the proud owner of a
Jude Rose handmade chrysalis necklace
. I have been dying for one, but they are only sold at the Cape May Bird Observatory gift shop. I also picked up a butterly field guide, caterpillar field guide, and a monarch finger puppet.

Next, I headed to Pavilion Gardens. Pavilion Gardens is actually a neighborhood traffic circle that has been planted as a butterfly garden. It is such a great use of suburban space! I took my camera and hung out by a fragrant lilac bush for about 25 minutes, snapping pictures. I saw 20-25 monarchs over that time! I even caught two monarchs mating!!!!! I got some great pictures of that process, which I am so happy about. I had never witnessed that before in the wild.

All in all, it was a great day. I couldn’t help thinking what a great class trip this would have been. I wish I could take my students out there, with their writer’s notebooks. just to observe and write. I was itching to write in my notebook, but had forgotten it in the car! It certainly is a spot that cries out to writers. Between the plants, animals, and just plain quiet, I can’t imagine the writing that will come from the park. Instead, I will have to settle for sharing my pictures and my entry with my students, and letting that inspire them!

monarch nectaring
photo taken by me

Monarch Magic

Tomorrow morning, I will leave bright and early to head down to Cape May Point. I will be meeting up with my friends in the
Monarch Teacher Network
, for the semi-annual Teachers for Biodiversity meeting. While this may sound odd for a Language Arts teacher, I raise monarchs with my class every fall. My classroom theme is “Journeys”, as my students are on the final leg of their journey to middle school. They also get the chance to emerge every morning, as a new person. Just like our caterpillars.

At 7am, I will begin the 2 hr drive to Cape May. As Erik, the director, states: “Each year the Teachers for Biodiversity group (a network we support) conducts two, one-day events for somewhere in …. for teachers and their friends/families, the Spring and Fall Gatherings. Because it seems likely this fall will be the best migration of monarch butterflies in over a decade… the 2007 Fall Gathering will be held at Cape May Point on Saturday, September 22… THE PEAK period for monarch migration in NJ with lots of hawk and songbird migration as well. The 2007 Fall Gathering offers the chance to explore Cape May, a world-famous migration site… and to socialize/share knowledge with people who share the same passions… ”

I can not wait for tomorrow. I have never been anywhere that is home to thousands of monarchs at once. I am hoping to see more monarchs than I ever have before. I also hope to see a monarch roost. A roost is when many monarchs (sometimes hundreds!) choose a tree, fence, or other safe area to rest or stay out of bad weather. When monarchs are migrating, they also rest in trees as part of a roost. I have never been lucky enough to see this and hope I can tomorrow!

I am sure I will a ton of pictures tomorrow, and I will be sure to post them!