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Monarch Butterfly Migration Monitoring

There’s a long history of counting migrating monarch butterflies at raptor monitoring sites across the continent. Whether intentionally scanning for them, tallying here and there as they drift through your field of view or trapping and tagging them, hawkwatchers have been counting and admiring these migrating beauties for decades. Many sites enjoy keeping daily totals and comparing year to year as their numbers fluctuate. Most hawkwatchers comment to some degree, on their presence in their non-raptor notes or daily observations in their HawkCount reports. This has resulted in a wealth of information in the HawkCount database about migrating monarch abundance and the routes they favor. If only there was a way to get this information to monarch butterfly biologists. Well, now there is! HMANA is partnering with MonarchNet so that these valuable data collected at hawk watch sites can be used to better understand their migration patterns.

MonarchNet

The mission of MonarchNet is to create a central website where everyone can gain access to information about monarch monitoring programs, learn how to access the data, and find tools for data visualization to learn about monarch dynamics throughout North America. This website serves as a resource for anyone who wants to know about monarch populations (i.e. government officials, researchers, members of the general public or NGOs). Since the partners represent the most important monitoring programs that collect data on monarchs, the collective data represent the most current and comprehensive information on the monarch biology. We hope that by linking the data sets our efforts will foster collaboration between monitoring programs, promote the use of the data to answer scientific questions, increase participation by citizen-scientists in multiple programs, and increase awareness of each monitoring program.

MonarchNet was started in 2009 during a meeting of scientists and monarch butterfly biologists, who proposed the initial idea of a cooperative network of monitoring programs, and a central place where the data from such programs would be accessible.  This effort is now a reality and a great step forward for monarch butterfly conservation.  MonarchNet is currently a joint project of the North American Butterfly Monitoring Network, led by Leslie Ries, and the Monarch Joint Venture, led by Karen Oberhauser.

How it will work

Rather than adding monarch totals in the daily observations notes or comment section for each day, sites now have the opportunity to add special data fields to their HawkCount account.  Sites will enter the numeric total of monarchs counted that day and be asked if all monarchs counted were reported to clarify whether counting effort was constant throughout the day or only for two of the eight hour count, for example. Monitoring monarchs is, of course, optional so sites may choose whether or not they’d like to participate and/or how much they’d like to. Some sites may choose to focus all their effort solely on raptors while others may make monarch monitoring a priority. We appreciate any level of contribution that works for you!

These data will be shared with MonarchNet to add to the better understanding of their populations and migration across the continent. HMANA is also currently working with MonarchNet to draw historic observations from HawkCount to access data prior to 2019.

Get Involved

If you are a hawkwatcher currently submitting raptor data to the HawkCount database and would like your site to participate in Monarch Migration Monitoring, please contact Julie Brown at brown@hmana.org or to learn more about MonarchNet, visit www.monarchnet.org.