title

The Chincoteague Monarch Monitoring Project
1997 - 2006
 Denise Gibbs, Project Coordinator, under the leadership of Dr. Lincoln P. Brower

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Assateague Island, Virginia


A 10-year study of the autumn migration of monarch butterflies at Chincoteague NWR was completed in 2006, and the findings were published; (Gibbs, D., D. Walton, L.P. Brower and A.K. Davis). 2006. Monarch Butterfly (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae) Migration Monitoring at Chincoteague, VA and Cape May, NJ:  A Comparison of Long-term Trends. /Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society/ 79(2): 156-164. 79(2):156-164).  An article entitled "Featherweight Fliers" was written about the Chincoteague Monarch Monitoring Project by photojournalist Marie Majarov and published in Virginia Wildlife, October 2008, Vol. 69, #10.

A Monarch Management Plan, based on data and observations collected during the study, was developed and submitted to the Supervisory Wildlife Biologist and Refuge Manager at Chincoteague NWR.  It contains recommendations for habitat enhancement projects and management strategies to benefit monarchs passing through the refuge during their Fall migration.  Implementation of the plan was initiated in May 2009 and will continue each Spring and Fall.

Tagging Monarchs
Monarchs were netted and tagged using tags from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas (see monarchwatch.org). Over the course of the project, several monarchs tagged at CNWR were recovered in southeastern states and at the winter sanctuaries in Mexico, specifically El Rosario and Sierra Chincua.

tagging in field  tagging  tagged monarch

Census Route and Habitats
Road Censuses were conducted three times per day from mid-September through mid-October. Counts were made by a single observer driving a car approximately 15-20 mi. per hour along a 5-mile route (Pollard Transect). All monarchs observed were tallied but no stops were allowed to count specific concentrations. The route passed through a variety of habitats including: salt marsh , wet meadow , tidal canals, mixed deciduous forest (mostly sweet gum and sassafras), maritime forest , bayberry/groundsel tree thicket , inter-dune areas , and primary dune and beach along the Atlantic Ocean.

Click to see  Route Map     Vicinity Map    View data for 1997 - 2005

2006 CHINCOTEAGUE  ROAD CENSUS: Daily & Seasonal Totals

Date
# Road Censuses 
(each takes 15 minutes)
Time 
of Observations 
         
Monarchs Perched
         
Monarchs in Flight

Total 
Monarchs
Hours of
Observation
Avg.  number 
Monarchs/Hour
of observation
9/17
2
 1 pm, 4 pm
1
1
2
.5
4
9/18
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
0
2
2
.75
3
9/19
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
1
2
3
.75
4
9/20
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
0
9
9
.75
12
9/21
3
10 am, 1pm, 4 pm
1
9
10
.75
13
9/22
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
5
15
20
.75
27
9/23
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
1
3
4
.75
5
9/24
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
0
12
12
.75
16
9/25
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
30
66
96
.75
128
9/26
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
2
65
67
.75
89
9/27
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
1
12
13
.75
17
9/28
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
8
1
9
.75
12
9/29
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
249
142
391
.75
521
9/30
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
45
6
51
.75
68
10/1
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
20
34
54
.75
72
10/2
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
239
379
618
.75
824
10/3
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
33
53
86
.75
115
10/4
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
91
14
105
.75
140
10/5
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
4
7
11
.75
15
10/6
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
0
0
0
.75
0
10/7
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
2
11
13
.75
26
10/8
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
19
38
57
.75
76
10/9
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
16
21
37
.75
49
10/10
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
12
32
44
.75
59
10/11
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
0
0
0
.75
0
10/12
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
12
35
47
.75
63
10/13
3
10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm
5
14
19
.75
25
10/14
2
10 am, 1 pm
12
0
12
.25
48
Season Total
 
------------------





 


The following table compares cumulative weekly averages (monarchs observed per hour) between years.

 CHINCOTEAGUE NWR ROAD CENSUS 1997-2006

Week 
1997 
1998
1999
 2000 
 2001 
 2002
  2003  
 2004
 2005
 2006
3rd week of Sept.
 40
 0
 728*
3
34
49
**
2
8
10
4th week of Sept.
 61
  47  
162 
     72     
     62     
     14    
2
1
26
122
1st week of Oct.
 92
 86
     411    
13
276
11
246
18
143
170
2nd week of Oct.
 47
 39
 89
197
275
   20  
39
112
327
46
* based on three days sampled
** not sampled this year


The following table and chart compare cumulative season averages (monarchs observed per hour) between years.

CHINCOTEAGUE NWR ROAD CENSUS 1997-2006

1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
60
44
243
71
162
25
96
33
174
87


per hr by yr

All data Denise R. Gibbs and Dr. Lincoln P. Brower. 


For further information on this effort contact:
Denise Gibbs
monarch301@verizon.net
or
Professor Lincoln P. Brower
Research Professor of Biology
Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar, VA 24595
Telephone: 434-277-5065 or 434-277-5655  Fax: 434-381-6488

We thank the staff of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge for their cooperation with this research project.  Thanks are also extended to all the volunteers who assisted with monarch tagging and road census data collection. These include:  Kate and Dick Tufts, Barbara Kreiley, Judy Kneen, Mona Miller, Carole Parker, Sandra Rowe-D'Agostaro, Rob Gibbs, Stephanie Mason, Rich Bray, Sandy Staples, Marie and Milan Majarov, and Pat Durkin.  Special thanks go to The Washington Area Butterfly Club and Judy Kneen for their support of this project.



| Top of Page |