Our mission is to inspire appreciation and understanding of the beauty, biodiversity and legacy of Cave Creek Canyon through volunteer work and outreach programs.

April 2021
Vermilion Flycatcher at a stock tank on Foothills Road
March 24, 2021
By Bob Rodrigues
Sugar Covered Cave Creek Canyon
March 25, 2021
By Ed Smith

Rare Golden-crowned Sparrow
March 21, 2021
By Steve Wolfe

Snow Topped Rocks in Cave Creek Canyon
March 25, 2021
By Ed Smith

Male Broad-billed Hummingbird at Foot Hills & Portal Road
March 31, 2021
By Steve Wolfe

Spring Butterfly News
Article and Photos by Lori Conrad

Spring has sprung, well sort of anyway. With less snow than usual this past winter, & very low rainfall numbers, spring is a bit behind here. Most flowers are yet to bloom, and as I write this on this lovely mid-March morning? It just started snowing!
Some of our early spring butterflies have already started to show up, including one unique species that over winters as an adult butterfly: The Satyr Comma
Satyr Comma #1
Satyr Comma #2 (Underwing)
Named for a small comma-shaped marking on the underwing, which you can see in the one photo. Most butterfly species lay their eggs usually in either spring or summer, then they die. The eggs hatch, become larva, then caterpillars, who feed on their host plant until they are impelled to create their cocoon, from which they will emerge the following spring as a winged creature. Not the Satyr Comma. After it does its egg laying, it remains alive & spends the winter as an adult butterfly, in a type of hibernation only known in a couple of butterfly species……Very unique! This species is common in mid to late March-April & can be seen easily right around the South Fork Bridge. They also like Elms, in which they feed on sap, usually seeping from holes created by our local Sapsuckers (woodpeckers). One of these Elms is located right below the aforementioned bridge.
Another spring denizen of our canyon is the Brown Elfin, a tailless member of the hairstreak family of butterflies. Abundant in some years (2021!), almost absent in others.
Brown Elfin
They can be found feeding on the newly budding willow catkins near the South Fork Bridge, or anywhere along the creek where there are budding willows.
The Spring White butterfly is aptly named as it is only found here in the early spring.
Spring White
Same thing applies to the Sara (Desert) Orangetip, a small but lovely butterfly that can be found on warmer days, flying all along South Fork Rd & also in many gardens in early spring.
Sara Orangetip
So, keep your eyes open for these lovely, ephemeral creatures, as they won't be here for very long! After they are mostly gone, our summer arrivals will make their debuts! Stay tuned……

Oaks of the Chiricahuas:
Fall in Spring
Article & Photos by
Ronald Quinn

The deciduous trees of Cave Creek Canyon have a brilliant show of fall colors, with the yellows of Arizona Sycamores contrasting with the red of Big Tooth Maples. This display is quite special, because it is absent from most natural western landscapes. There is a second turning of foliage here, and it happens in April. It stems from our evergreen oaks, the ones that have green leaves all year round. There are 11 species of oaks in the Chiricahuas, and 10 of them are evergreen. The Arizona White Oak is generally the largest and most conspicuous of these species. The oldest among them grow as much as 60’ tall, often with a spreading crown of stout branches. The bark is light gray, and deeply fissured. 

The Arizona White Oak has oblong leaves, 1-3” long. The leaves are thick and stiff, like those of other evergreen oaks. These traits, together with their internal anatomy, produce a durable leaf that does not wilt, and remains alive and active for an entire year. Why? In our mild winter climate this allows the Arizona White Oak to make a living all year round, using live leaves. Deciduous oaks, so common in climates with more rain and colder winter temperatures, have much thinner and larger leaves that develop in spring and are discarded in fall, leaving the tree bare for almost half the year. The only local example of these in the Chiricahuas is the Gambel Oak, found only at higher elevations. All oaks, including the evergreens, grow new leaves at the same time, in spring. So the Arizona White Oak is a quick-change artist, discarding its year old leaves in March-April, at the same time it produces new leaves, replacing the old with the new. 

So we see fall colors here in the spring, because old oak leaves begin dying back and turning a coppery brown beginning in March, just weeks before the tree is dressed in the brand new, bright green leaves of April. After an exceptionally dry winter, like this one of 2021, some Arizona White Oaks may hold the new leaf buds dormant, while still shedding the old leaves on schedule. This can leave those trees bare for a while, until there is rain sufficient to awaken the buds. I have seen a few such exceptional years when some Chiricahua oak woodlands looked forlorn because of the leafless, gray, White Oak trees. Some remained that way until summer rains restored them. When the first monsoonal rains were spotty, one could tell from a distance where it had rained because the white oaks there had quickly turned green.

Watch the Arizona White Oaks in and around Cave Creek Canyon this spring, and see what they do. You can count on their leaves turning color, and then falling, but will they all immediately show a new flush of bright green leaves? If not, watch and wait for the arrival of the monsoons. The trees will.

American Dipper in the Chiricahuas
Article & Photo by
Robert Rodrigues

The American Dipper is one of five species of dipper worldwide. It occurs from Alaska through the western United States into the mountains of Mexico, but is very uncommon in the Chiricahua Mountains. Dippers can swim underwater and live along clear, fast-flowing mountain streams where they feed on aquatic insects, larvae, and other invertebrates. 

An American Dipper was reported below the Herb Martyr Dam in early February by some folks visiting Cave Creek Canyon, and was subsequently seen by a number of Portal residents. On February 8 photographs of two separate individual dippers were obtained, one of which appeared to be an adult bird, and the other an immature with a partially yellow bill. Since then, the dippers have been seen by many local birders as well as folks visiting Cave Creek Canyon. The best place to look for the dippers is probably from the Herb Martyr Dam although the birds are often further downstream and out of view. They have been reported as far down stream as the waterfall at John Hands Campground.  
Adult American Dipper
Camping and Shopping in the Chiricahuas
The Chiricahua Mountains and the campgrounds are open and calling!

For the first time in over 2 years all these campgrounds are now open:

Idlewilde, Sunny Flat, Stewart, Herb Martyr, John Hands and Rustler.

The Visitor Information Center is managed by FOCCC and is open daily 9:00-3:00. During the pandemic, we are only operating outside.  We have handouts, answers to most of your questions, and more. Stop by for a visit!
Cave Creek Canyon: Revealing the Heart of Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains 2nd Edition $19.95

Two ways to order online

Available in person at :
Visitor Information Center of Cave Creek Canyon
Portal Store & Café
Sky Islands Grill & Grocery
Chiricahua Desert Museum
A Special Thank You to our Generous Members !

Lifetime Members ~ One Time $1500 Donation
Mike Leuthold
Delia Scholes
Pat Parran
Denise Ward
Mike and Cecil Williams
Sustainer's Circle Members
Kirby Alguire
Tom Arny
Bob and Bettina Arrigoni
Charles and Mary George
Bill and Sally Hague
Paul Hirt and Linda Jakse
Fritz and Gayle Jandry
Don Hollister
Claudia Kirscher
Rae and Jim Ludke

Patrick McNamara
John and Karin McQuillan
Barbara and Pete Miller
Cecilia Raak
Tom Roseman and Paula Baldwin
Lee Simpson and Howard Szczech
Andrew & Ellen Stepniewski
John and Linda Sumner
Jeff and Alice Wakefield
Bob and Sherry Zoellick.

Help us thank our Business Members who have given generously to Friends of Cave Creek Canyon. 

Without their assistance, we would be hard pressed to accomplish our goals.

Click on their names to check out their websites.  
A.S.K. Pest Control 
Ed Newbold Wildlife Artist
Painted Pony
Sky Islands Grill & Grocery  
Daussin & Associates
Migration Taco
OL' Morani Ranch 
Sky Island Rolfing  
Terry Miller
Umphres Propane
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