To  Cave Creek 
               Canyon  Friends


The Moon Over 
                The Chiricahuas

By Fred Espenak
My wife Pat and I were originally drawn to Portal because of the very dark night sky here. I'm a retired NASA astronomer and I've always wanted to build my own observatory in a place where I can see the Milky Way every clear night. So we built a home (and observatory) in Arizona Sky Village over a decade ago. Of course, we quickly fell in love with the area and especially Cave Creek Canyon.

Although my main interest is photographing distant astronomical objects through my telescopes, I also enjoy shooting "night-scapes". These are night landscapes that feature some important element of the night sky such as the Milky Way or a prominent constellation, along with a recognizable foreground. In the example here, I've captured a time sequence of the setting crescent Moon over the Chiricahua Mountains. The craggy spires in the foreground are located at the south end of Mount Sceloporus. 

I didn't have to travel far to capture this celestial vista since I set up my camera and tripod at "trash corner" (the intersection of Portal Road and Foothills Road). If you ever see a suspicious character wandering around the area after dark and carrying a large tripod, it's probably me after another heavenly composition. So please kill the high beams on your car!

Images from Debra Davison

[Debra was a great host at the Visitor Information Center for a few months, ending in January.  We hope she will return!] 

             Juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher                           White-faced Coati

Near John Hands Campground

Winn Falls [Formerly Sally Falls]

Volunteers Make A Difference
Meet Alan Craig!
  by Rene Donaldson

ALAN CRAIG, our unassuming, dedicated bird and wildlife authority who fell under the spell of birds when he was too young to resist a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks, has been a FOCCC Board member for five years and a volunteer at the Visitor Information Center (VIC), managed by FOCCC, for three. In addition to introducing visitors to our Arizona bird species, Alan generates interest in our natural history whether it be pointing out a Mourning Cloak butterfly or a tiny orange flower on a native wolfberry. Alan's wisdom and easy smile are sought by repeat visitors at the VIC who ask for him by name.
One of Alan's many ways of giving back to his lifelong interest in birds is keeping  Willow Tank alive. He began helping Dave Jasper, Don Wadsworth, and Bob Dearing before it b ecame a FOCCC project and has become the group memory on it in addition to volunteering there on a regular basis. He brings decades of experience working with soil, water, plants, and sun-and the animals dependent on them. Before retirement from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Alan led the California Least Tern Recovery Team and managed the San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Riverside, California.

Living and birding in the San Diego area in the early 1970s, Alan, Jean Terschuren, and several other active birders assisted Guy McCaski in the formation of the California Field Ornithologists. Alan was the first editor of the latter's journal,  Western Birds, a post he held for 14 years with major assistance from his wife, Narca Moore-Craig. Alan set high requirements for this journal, which recently passed its 50th year.

Alan has probably lost track of the thousands of birds he has banded over the years but none of them were Evening Grosbeaks.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Reed Peters at 520-558-2334 or Mike Williams at 520-558-1045 or [email protected]

Former South Fork Trailhead
Below is the former South Fork Cave Creek trailhead  and picnic area with Cave Creek now flowing right through after the 2014 hurricane.  

MONDAY, MARCH 9      10 AM



With FOCCC & The US Forest Service

For many months the FOCCC Board has been working with the Forest Service on a plan to provide a new and greatly improved trailhead area where the berm is now, at the end of South Fork Rd.
  • Learn why this project was started.
  • See the proposed plan, including trails, educational features, vault toilet, benches, picnic tables, safety features, and more.
  •  Forest Service personnel and FOCCC board members will be present to answer questions and receive suggestions.  We welcome your ideas.
  • This is just a concept plan and must go through the approval process and there will be additions and changes.  

Additional  Project Components

There will be 5-8 benches along South Fork Road between the turnoff from FR 42 and the bridge crossing South Fork.  Walkers will be able to relax and observe the wildlife.

Under development are plans to put in a vault toilet, parking, picnic tab les and a trail to or along the creek.

This project must go through the approval process with the Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service.  We hope to begin the project in the Fall of 2020.  There will be no major work done during the nesting season.      

The Forest Service has been extremely supportive of this large project and has been fully involved in its development.  The estimated cost is upwards of $150,000.  The Forest Service will be providing staff time, supervision of the project and other components.

Friends of Cave Creek  Canyon is responsible for raising all the $150,000.   

Donations and pledges now total about $70,000.  We have raised  over one-half of the needed funding.    

Will you make a donation or a pledge
 to support this project?

Agave - Friends of the Ladder-backed Woodpecker
by Helen Snyder

Agaves are one of our most iconic Arizona plants. Always decorative in  their natural setting, when they flower they attract dozens of species from bats and bird s to insects. And we love to bring their dried stalks home to mount for perches near bird fee ding areas. But these dried stalks are also a critical substrate for one of North America's least-studied birds, our little desert Ladder-backed Woodpecker. They seem to need a stalk only about 4" in diameter for a nest, and happily nest within 5 feet of the ground.

These agave-stalk nest sites are short-lived and vulnerable to being toppled by wind, but the clever woodpeckers definitely prefer drilling nests in stalks that have been shortened by being cut or broken above the 6 foot level. So how you cut down a dried stalk can destroy its use for these birds - or if done right, it can enhance the stalks' attraction to the woodpecker.

So when you're harvesting your bird-perch stalk, either pick one that's 3" or less in diameter at head height and therefore too thin for woodpecker use - or cut a thicker one at least 6-7 feet above ground level. Chances are you've just created an attractive new nest site for these cute little guys.

                 Agave in the snow                                      Noel Snyder and his photos

Wolves of the Sky
Written by Portal Resident Debb Johnson 

Debb Johnson had a curiosity about nature since she w as a child and after moving to Tucson in 1976 she studied the desert wildlife and plant life. 
Her goal of interpreting birds of prey was achieved and after 8 years as a docent interpreting raptors, she spent her final 3 years at the Az. Sonora Desert Museum as a raptor handler for the Raptor Free Flight program where the birds fly free of restraints and are called to perches or a gloved hand during the demonstrations.
Working with raptors was the most amazing experience of her life.  Debb was compelled to share her knowledge of birds or prey with whoever would listen!  Her hobby of photographing birds and her experience culminated in the publishing of her first book "Wolves of the Sky, Harris' Hawks", available at the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon Visitor's Information Center. The book describes with full color photos, the amazing dynamic of Harris' Hawks matriarchal family structure and cooperative hunting. 
Most of the full color photos in her book were taken by Debb and her husband Bud at the Desert Museum during Free Flight demonstrations where she had a birds eye view of the behaviors exhibited. She has also used photos taken by friends including Noel Snyder and Fritz Jandrey,  who shared her love of these amazing birds.
Debb writes journals and poems from her life experiences, and has published several human interest stories for the Rural Electric Co-op magazine, the Encha ntment. She is currently working on her second natural history photo book which will be called "The Uncommon  Common Barn Owl".

McCord Saddle

[Photo by Rolf Koford]

Chiricahua Mountains in Winter

[Photo by Renata Golden]

IRA Charitable Gifts To Benefit The Canyon
Individuals age 70.5 and older can donate their IRA mandatory annual distribution or even more each year from their IRAs to Friends of Cave Creek Canyon without counting the distribution as income.

The ability to make this gift directly from IRA accounts is now a permanent part of the U.S. tax code. The gift amount counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), and your taxable income is lowered by the amount of your qualified charitable distribution (QCD). Gifts must be completed before December 31 to be eligible in the current tax year.
Important points to consider: You must be at least age 70½. 
  • The gift should come directly from your IRA account, in the form of a check
  • The gift may come from a Traditional or a Roth IRA (special exclusions may apply to other types of IRA accounts). 
  • Although there is no tax deduction, there is NO income tax on the withdrawal.
What are the advantages?
  • Benefit FOCCC's work in a meaningful way today.
  • Meet your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).
  • Pay no income tax on the amount withdrawn for your gift.
  • Give above your deductible charitable limit of 60% of adjusted gross income.
How do I give?  Please have your IRA plan administrator send a check to:
ATTN: Office of Gift Planning       FOCCC    PO Box 16126     Portal, AZ 85632
Accompanying paperwork should identify (1) your name and address, and (2) whether your gift is intended for a specific program or for Friends of Cave Creek Canyon's general programs. 
FOCCC's Tax ID # is 27-3531633              FOCCC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisers  before engaging in any transaction.

FOCCC 2019 Officers and Board

Reed Peters         President                                     Other Board Members  
Sheri Ashley        Vice President                      Bob Ashley        S tevie Wayman
Mike Williams      Vice President 
                   Alan Craig           Rene Donaldson
Rick Beno 
Cecil Williams 
  Kim Vacariu
Pat Parran            Secretary
FOCCC Board of Directors meets on the first Wednesday morning each month  at the Chiricahua Desert Museum on Highway 80.  If you have interest in attending or putting something on the agenda, please contact President Reed Peters at 520-558-2334.  All members are welcome to attend.




Friends Of Cave Creek Canyon
PO Box 16126
Portal, Arizona 85632


Visit Our Website 


Thanks to our "Sustainer's Circle" and Lifetime Members 
for their generous support:  
Tom Arny, Bob and Bettina Arrigoni, Susan Dalby & Eskild Peterson, Nancy and Thomas Denney, Stephen Durkovich, L. Syrene Forsman, Mary George, Bill and Sally Hague, Paul Hirt and Linda Jakse, Fritz and Gayle Jandry, Don Hollister, Ken Jenkins, Leuthold Family Foundation,  Barbara Lounsbery,  Patrick McNamara, John and Karin McQuillan, Barbara and Pete Miller, Patricia Parran, Cecilia Raak, Tom Roseman and Paula Baldwin, Delia Scholes and Ed Newbold, Jeff and Alice Wakefield, and Bob and Sherry Zoellick.

Please support 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.    
                 Cave Creek Ranch                           Chiricahua Desert Museum
             Naturalist Journeys, LLC                                   Orchid Davis   
                 Sky Island Rolfing                                           Wynne Brown 
                   Chiricahua Gallery                                      Daussin & Associates
                   Casa Petra Vera                                      Ed Newbold Wildlife Artist    
                     Quailway Cottage                                    Sky Island Lodge
            Sky Island Grill & Grocery                        The George Walker House      
Portal Peak Store and Lodge                            Umphres Propane
                     Gardenwerks                                            Ol' Morani Ranch
                  A.S.K. Pest Control
Business Memberships start at just $50.00!