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Spotlight: 1st Monarch in Maine? Verifying Data Behind the Scenes

The word came on Tuesday, May 13th, from Mrs. Fitzgerald's class in Kittery Point, Maine:

"Two first grade students spotted a monarch at about 11:30am. It was a sunny day and the monarch flew past them."

This is a remarkable sighting! If accurate, it would be this spring's first for the state of Maine. Yet this sighting is 275 miles ahead of the migration's leading edge, and monarchs don't usually reach Maine until June.

What steps does Journey North take to verify the data we collect from observers? Meet Journey North's Cindy Schmid. She reviews every sighting and spends hundreds of hours each season contacting observers for more information.

Monarch butterflies come and go quickly. It's hard to make sure that somebody saw one. But there's another way can we confirm that monarchs have arrived. Can you guess what it is? Read carefully!

Journey North's Cindy Schmid writes to observers for more information.

To: Mitchell School in Maine
From: Journey North

To: Journey North
From: Mitchell School in Maine

Dear Mrs. Fitzgerald,
Thanks so much for your report from Kittery Point, ME.

  • Yours is the first monarch report from your state.
  • Early monarchs don't normally reach your area until June.
  • The nearest sighting is in Oradell, NJ over 275 miles away.

Has milkweed emerged yet? Would it be possible for you or the students to find milkweed and look for eggs? If there have been monarchs in the area there will likely be eggs on milkweed. This is another way to confirm that monarchs have arrived.

Also, when young children report, without the confirmation of an adult, we always wait to hear back on how experienced they are at identifying monarchs

I hope you don't mind my asking for additional information. It is certainly possible that they saw a monarch!
We will move your report from the migration map while we wait to hear back from you.

Again, thank you for reporting your observation to us. Without people
like you, tracking the migration wouldn't be possible!

Warm regards,

Cindy Schmid
Journey North

Dear Journey North,
Yes, I was a little hesitant on the sighting, but we've been on the website, viewed the slide shows, and compared the various butterflies.

I had reliable students say that they saw one while they were waiting in line to come in from recess and we entered it because they were so excited.

We also participated in the symbolic migration and are currently doing a unit on insects so the kids are very into it all!!

I will check out the milkweed tomorrow. I planted some last year and know of a few other plants in the area. I'll keep you posted, and I will let the kids in on your email so they can help with the investigation!

Mrs. Fitzgerald
Kittery Point, ME