Our Mission is to inspire appreciation and understanding of the beauty, biodiversity and legacy of Cave Creek Canyon through volunteer work and outreach programs.
Happy New Year
By Mike Williams

Perhaps the best story of the year is the lengthy visits of the Eared Quetzals. They arrived in June and were last seen in late November. Birds that visit maybe once a decade were here for months and so very easy to see. Great photos were taken by so many people. These are two of my favorites, taken by Tony Donaldson on the left and Bob Rodrigues on the right.

Peg Abbott was there almost every day, chronicling their daily lives and enabling all of us to enjoy and appreciate these magnificent birds.
The Banded Rock Rattlesnake
By Bob Ashley
Banded Rock Rattlesnake - Chiricahua Mountains
The Chiricahua Mountains are well known for their rich diversity of animal and plant species. It is one of the many Sky Islands of southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Mexico which are named for being an insular habitat surrounded by a sea of arid landscape. The Sky Islands are part of a larger complex called the Madrean Archipelago.
Obviously, birds have the ability to fly from one Sky Island to another, whereas other inhabitants, like amphibians and reptiles, are stranded on their island of origin by a vast sea of desert and grasslands. For this reason, an animal species that is “stranded” on one Sky Island over vast periods of time is unable to communicate (mating and gene flow) to conspecifics on other mountains; thus, populations on each of these islands evolve independently, sometimes becoming new species. This is termed allopatric speciation. Frequently, these animals will exhibit different color patterns, mating behaviors, and other characteristics. 
Banded Rock Rattlesnake - Peloncillo Mountains
The Banded Rock Rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus klauberi), for example, is found in both the Chiricahua and Peloncillo Mountains. Currently, they are recognized as the same species, yet over time they have evolved different color patterns that are stable and heritable. An expert with experience in this region can, in most cases, easily differentiate an adult Banded Rock Rattlesnake from either of these two mountain ranges.

Birds in Flight by Tony Donaldson
Golden Eagle
Barn Owl
Red-tailed Hawk
Was 2020 a Dry Year?

Richard Schreiber, Limestone Hill - Portal, AZ

The word “non-soon” appeared often in the media to characterize the 2020 monsoon season in the Southwestern US. One meteorologist suggested that wasn’t strong enough and called it a “failed monsoon”. No question it was exactly that.  

Monsoonal rainfall for the 2019 season was well below average, but for 2020 the precipitation was even less. Cities across the entire region – Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Las Vegas, Roswell, Albuquerque – all recorded record low amounts of rain. Flagstaff had their driest season on record and Tucson the second driest. Statewide, Arizona averaged only 1.5 inches for the three-month period.

The monsoon season contributes about half of the annual precipitation in the Southwest and if the monsoon is a dry one, w­­­­­e can at least hope to make up the difference in the fall and winter. But, this year’s fall rain was scant and didn’t improve the situation at all. So when attempting to answer the question “was it dry year?” we invariably end up focusing on the monsoon season.

One of the scientists with the National Weather Service explained that the weather patterns that can bring copious amounts of rain didn’t materialize this year. Moisture in southwestern Arizona is sourced from flow that first enters northwestern Mexico and then pushes up into southwest Arizona, but for the most part that didn’t happen.  In fact, much of that expected moisture didn’t even make it into Mexico.

Also, meteorologists have pointed out that because it’s a “La Nina” year, we should not anticipate a wet winter to help out the dry monsoon. So a warm and dry winter is predicted for this year. 

What are the possible causes? It might have been related to the high tropical storm and hurricane activity and higher than normal rainfall in the Atlantic and Caribbean. But meteorologists aren’t sure of the correlation. 

The Drought Monitor Map below shows how extreme the conditions have become for several Southwestern states.

Based on data from our personal weather station here on Limestone Hill, our immediate area was no exception. In the chart you’ll note a distinct absence of any significant rainfall for the monsoon period of mid-June through September - the worst in the eight-year period.  If we thought 2019 was bad, well this was even worse. 
While rainfall at your home may well have been much less or more, based on overall experience in the region, what we recorded on Limestone Hill and the year-to-year trends are probably very typical. If you received a lot more rain you were fortunate.

I checked a few of the personal weather stations that upload data to Weather Underground, all within an eight-mile radius of Portal. For the month of July – the wettest month this year – rain totals from those five stations ranged from 1.90 to 3.67 inches. Our site was at the midpoint with 2.49 inches.

There is one possibly positive note: Several forecasters believe that in spite of the past couple of very dry years there is not an obvious long-term trend. Historically, low precipitation tends to occur in a cluster of years with more abundant rain following.
Photo Gallery
Pronghorn by Steve Wolfe

Pronghorns in the pecan orchards north of Apache.
Photos By Debb Johnson
The Great Conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter, joined by the crescent Moon by Fred Espenak
Photo by Barbara Ellis Quinn
Canyon Wren
Photos by Tony Donaldson
Hooded Merganser at Willow Tank by Peg Abbott
Photo by Joan Schneider

Thanks to our "Sustainer's Circle" and Lifetime Members for their generous support:  
Kirby Alguire
Tom Arny
Bob and Bettina Arrigoni
Susan Dalby & Eskild Petersen
Stephen Durkovich
L. Syrene Forsman
Charles and Mary George
Bill and Sally Hague
Paul Hirt and Linda Jakse
Fritz and Gayle Jandry
Don Hollister
Claudia Kirscher
Mike Leuthold
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
Andrew & Ellen Stepniewski
John and Linda Sumner
Jeff and Alice Wakefield
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.     
A.S.K. Pest Control 
Ed Newbold Wildlife Artist
Sky Island Grill & Grocery  
Daussin & Associates
OL' Morani Ranch 
Sky Island Rolfing  
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