Text and photographs (all copyrighted) by Tony Leukering
It began with a Monarch.
Well, actually, it began with a lot of Monarchs. The "morning flight" past my house in Villas on early morning of 4 October was dominated by Monarchs, even before 8 am. Thus, I decided to head to the Point to help with the tagging of these spectacular butterflies. On the way, I stopped to talk to Louise, the local Grand Master of Monarch tagging to see where she and the Monarch Intern, Claire Iseton, would be starting their efforts. As Louise and Michael were heading out the door to join mutual friends for breakfast at Bella Vida, I joined them. Among the other participants of that breakfast were two previous Monarch Interns, Meg Walker and Chris Kisiel. After a great breakfast, we journeyed to Cape May Point to check out the Monarchs at Bill and Edie's place on Cambridge Ave. Two doors down, Glen Davis found a gathering of Monarchs nectaring on blooming English Ivy, some of which are pictured below.
After the photographers among us were permitted a few minutes to photograph the concentration, the catchers among us (and I am included in both sets) started in on capturing critters for tagging. With so many Monarchs flying, however, both Michael O'Brien and I soon turned our focus to photographing flying Monarchs rather than catching 'em.
The above was, obviously, recently tagged by the taggers and its tag number is more or less readable in the picture. But, then the raptors started pouring overhead and Michael and I were hard-pressed to take advantage of all of the flying photo ops, whether of butterflies, dragonflies, or raptors. However, this Peregrine got us focused more strongly on the raptors, at least for a while.
Then, a diverse kettle set up overhead that included Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, and Broad-winged hawks and Peregrine Falcons. At least one of the Peregrines seemingly took umbrage to the presence of the Broad-wingeds and started making passes at them. Michael managed a picture of some talon-locking which I missed out on, but I did get a nice Broad-winged reaction photo.
Monarchs were not the only species passing by that had recently been captured, as evidenced by this banded Cooper's Hawk.
Shortly after the passage of the Cooper's with intermixed frisbee tossing, we adjourned to the State Park and I joined the weekend throng of visitors on the Hawkwatch platform. The raptor show continued, led by a strong Peregrine showing, including by this obliging juvenile female.
The highlight, however, of the Hawkwatch day was a leucistic Osprey, already noted in this venue, but for which I provide another couple images as a composite.
It ended with a Monarch.
One of the last creatures that I photographed on the 4th was this Monarch peregrinating past the Hawkwatch platform.