World Series of Birding 2015: Monarchists

    The 32nd annual World Series of Birding will be held on Saturday, May 9, 2015.  The Monarchists team will return for our fifth year.  Again we will compete in two categories, eligible for the Carbon Footprint Award (no motor vehicles) and for the Cape Island Cup (searching only on Cape Island, the area south of the Cape May Canal).  We are on a winning streak, as defending champions of the Carbon Footprint Award, which we won in 2013 and 2014, after winning the Cape Island Cup in 2012.


    Most importantly, we raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, a research and education project of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory.  The Monarchists team will be unchanged from the last few years, with Louise Zemaitis (Captain), Lu Ann Daniels, Meghan Walker Hedeen, Michael O’Brien, and Mark Garland.  We are fortunate to have a “support staff” of Ron “Mr. Scones” Rollet, Paige Cunningham, Chris Kisiel Davis, and Linda Keister.


    The World Series of Birding is a friendly bird-finding competition that takes place each May in New Jersey.  The Carbon Footprint category is in just its seventh year, and the award is given to the team that finds the most birds without using a motor vehicle.  Our team will walk and ride bicycles around Cape May, hoping for a day when migrants are abundant.  While it’s not part of the formal competition, we also count the number of butterfly species we find.  Sponsors can choose to pledge for butterflies and/or birds.


     New this year is the option to make your pledge online.  Please visit our team’s page on the World Series of Birding website and you can make your pledge or contribution here.  You can also do it the old-fashioned way by sending a check (details down at the bottom of the page).


    We are hoping to find more than 120 species of birds by sight or by sound around Cape May on May 9, plus 10 or more species of butterflies.  Think we can do it?  Check this site after the event for the results.

    Our team is raising funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, founded and coordinated by Dick Walton.  Volunteers with this project (including all of us on this team) have been tagging and counting monarchs that migrate through Cape May for more than twenty years.  Dr. Lincoln Brower, considered the world’s leading expert on monarch butterflies, serves as the scientific advisor to this project.  It’s believed that this project is the longest continuous census of a migratory insect that has ever been conducted.  Additionally, project volunteers give dozens of scheduled and impromptu educational sessions around Cape May each September and October as migratory monarch butterflies are seen around Cape May.


    Recent studies have shown that the numbers of migratory monarchs wintering in Mexico have declined dramatically, yet numbers from the Cape May study have not shown a similar decline, suggesting that the east coast population of monarchs is doing better than those in other parts of the US.  Perhaps we have stewardship lessons we can share with those in other regions, but it’s vital for us to continue gathering data.


  The Monarch Monitoring Project accomplishes this important scientific research and education with a small budget, but funds are needed.  Each year we hire young biologists for two months to conduct field work and assist in the educational presentations.  Funds are also needed to purchase tags and other equipment used in the project.  Many of the interns who worked with us have moved on to fulfilling careers in biology and/or education.

    We’re participating in the World Series of Birding to support the Monarch Monitoring Project.  If you’d like to help, you can pledge your support or just send a contribution for any amount.  The simplest way to pledge support is to visit our page on the World Series of Birding website.  Pledges are typically offered on a “per species” basis -- donors offer a certain amount per species of bird seen during the event.  We’re planning to count butterflies as well as birds (hoping for 10 species or more), and we welcome pledges tied to the number of birds, butterflies, or both that we find and identify on May 9.  If that’s too complicated for you, simply send a check for any amount written to the New Jersey Audubon Society, with “Monarch Project #024” written in the memo area, and mail to Mark Garland at PO Box 154, Cape May Pt., NJ  08212, or give your check to any member of the team.


    Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for your support.  I’ll post a summary of our day shortly after the event.


    Visit and subscribe to the Monarch Monitoring Project blog, updated frequently during the monarch research season of September - October, here: http://capemaymonarchs.blogspot.com

Above: monarch tagged at Cape May Point.

Below: monarchs clustering on roost in Mexico.

Monarchs gliding above the winter roost site at

Cerro Pelon, in central Mexico.  Below, monarchs at Cape May Point.

To return to Mark’s web site click here.

How you can help

Above: 2013 Monarchists celebrating victory. Below: 2012 Monarchists with the legendary Cape Island Cup.

Monarchists birding at the South Cape May Meadows as dawn breaks.

Above: Michael & Louise on our rainy 2013 run.

Right: We don’t stop just because it gets dark.

Below: Cape May Point before dawn.

To return to Mark’s web site click here.

Above: 2014 Monarchists win the Carbon Footprint Award.