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

June-July 2021
Celebrate – July 3                   
Save the Date!     9 am – noon

The Friends of Cave Creek Canyon invite you to get out and enjoy our beautiful Canyon and Forest.

Join us at the Visitor Center to learn more about the beauty this stunning Sky Island offers.

  • Chat with local experts who will have displays about ants, snakes, and the geology of the Chiricahuas.

  • Learn about FireWise practices.

  • To keep you smiling, meet the Portal Wizard

  • Live music with Debb, Bud and Sue

Don’t forget to get your Free Maps and info on our trails

          Free Nature Bags for children and students
Have FUN with a morning ICE CREAM SOCIAL!!! [FREE]

Enjoy looking at our sun through a solar scope

String of pearls - a natural moment from our backyard
By Ray Mendez

Anyone feeling hot, in need of a glass of tea or cold water? Just think of the millions of non-human neighbors that surround us and ask yourself just what they are doing. Insects have thousands of types of strategies for dealing with the heat from not hatching until it rains, sleeping deep underground or creating living larders.

The honey-pot ants have a special way of handling our dry climate. In a very simplified explanation, we run on carbohydrates and grow on proteins. Honey-pot ants create living larders by storing and processing nectar into a rich honey within their bodies so when a worker goes out to forage, they can tank up on sugars.

This is is just what bees do but our ants use their bodies as living storage containers instead of building honeycombs in which to deposit the processed sugars. And for those of you who wonder, once a worker ant becomes a storage container – known as a replete – they keep that function for the rest of their lives which can be well over 6 years in our lab.

Recently we collected several colonies of Myrmecocystus mimicus, a valley floor species. We have five local species that go from elevations of over 6,000’ to the lowest points in our valley. The ants were collected for a new science series (sorry, I can say no more without endangering your life) at a friend’s property. As sometimes happens, one of the nests had a queen that totally adapted to being in captivity. The colony, which Wyatt and Victor Armbruster dug up with his backhoe for the film, has exploded with workers, larvae and pupae. All this since we installed them in our artificial nest just over a month ago. The queen honeypot ant, depicted here, was laying a string of eggs yesterday, so I called Miles Maxcer, who is working with us in our studio, to come over and photograph her…and he excitedly did!
I have often watched as queens lay one or two eggs at a time but never have I seen so many just hanging from her abdomen at one time. I counted as one egg was produced about every 4 minutes.

When they hit the ground, workers collected them and put them in a huge pile, all waiting to hatch into larvae. The larvae are kept in creches of different ages so the older larvae don’t eat their younger siblings.

Enjoy the heat knowing these wonders live right under your feet!

More on this story on July 3 when we will have replete workers from several colonies for you to meet or taste at the Visitor Information Center.

Different habitat, different flavor! An unusual taste treat for only a $25 donation to the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon.

Come early as we only have a few of each for you to taste.
Update on South Fork Project

Because the Final Environmental Assessment Report on the South Fork Day Use Area has considerably reduced the size of Forest Service original plan, including a partial gate closure and eliminating the trail for mobility impaired people, we are scheduling a meeting with our District Ranger, Doug Ruppel, to discuss reasons and options for their recommendations. We will keep our members informed.

Goodbye to Barney
Barney Tomberlin earned his wings and passed from this world recently. Barney was a long term Portal resident and contributing member of FOCCC. He will be greatly missed.
This picture is circa 1986, showing Barney shipping creatures of some kind. He is giving the box to Joan Jensen, who still manages our post office. [Thanks Joan!]
For many years Barney shared his collection of many different snakes and gila monsters with the Visitor Center. For about 8 months each year he put them on display and would give presentations.

Barney also gave many presentations in Portal and surrounding area for decades. He is irreplaceable. Thank you Barney for your dedication and spirit. We miss you greatly.
Photo Gallery
Hooded Oriole by Bob Rodrigues
Western Tanager by Bob Rodrigues
White-breasted Nuthatch by Alice Wakefield
Red Gray Fox by Linda Castor
Hepatic Tanager by Bob Rodrigues
Some Interesting Creatures By Ray Mendez
I just totally enjoy watching these critters walking along on the desert floor. It is a rainbow grasshopper. The Latin name is Dactylotum bicolor and they came in many combinations of white, orange, blue and green. 1 1/4” long, as adults they are harmless and fun to watch.
You might think the rainbow grasshoppers are so brightly colored because they are poisonous. However the literature states that if they are poisonous it is due to the plants they eat from which they can internalize toxins. I guess if you feed them on kale they might be just fine. Anyone want to try it out?

I found this one being eaten by a whiptail lizard who dragged it around in the sun. Got a few shots off before it dropped the grasshopper. Not sure if it was dropped because of poison or my crawling around after it with the camera.
Another neighbor in our warm climate is an Acridid grasshopper. Notice the back legs are off the ground. This is to keep the pads from burning on hot rocks or sand. They literally stand on their front "nails" as the rocks get hotter and hotter. The area has abundant numbers of lovely grasshopper species - probably well over 50 species of all families of hoppers just in our valley.
by Rene Donaldson

Jeff Wakefield
An avid nature enthusiast, Jeff cut his teeth roaming the woods surrounding the Ozark National Forest in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His outdoor passion grew exponentially from college backpack trips to climbing most of the 14,000-ft peaks and Denali in Alaska while on US Air Force assignments.

His introduction to the lure of the Chiricahuas however occurred in the 1970s when he was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson. While there he would spend his free time backpacking, caving, and exploring the diversity of the
Sky Islands. More recently, Jeff’s appreciation and knowledge of Cave Creek Canyon was expanded on vacations at George Walker House (Paradise) when Jackie Lewis began teaching him and his wife Alice how to identify birds. It was then that Alice became as excited about the area as her husband.

This engaging pair feel that they are home where their hearts took them so many years ago. Supporting FOCCC will allow both of them to contribute to the conservation of Cave Creek Canyon and to continue with their own related nature education in addition to helping those who visit the area. We warmly welcome Jeff and Alice to our community and Jeff to the FOCCC board.
Trash Man, Jeff Wakefield, collects garbage and litter left by campers at John Hands and Herb Martyr. This is most likely the worst volunteer task with the largest reward. He and Alice
regularly check the campgrounds because they want visitors to experience Nature without the distraction of debris left by others.

They usually pull a few beer cans and water bottles out of the ditches and roadsides but find very little trash in the dispersed campgrounds past the
Southwestern Research Station.

There is, however, always considerable trash around the
site closest to the waterfall at John Hands, including human waste. The next time you see Jeff and Alice, please thank them for this self-appointed chore that benefits
everyone. Why do they do it? That’s just the way they were raised.
(Photo by Alice Wakefield)
Pat Parran
While Pat is not a new Board member, her face at Board meetings is. She jumped into the limelight (some would say “fray”) in 2020—when nobody else would—to become FOCCC’s “temporary” Recording Secretary. She continues as Corresponding Secretary, a position she has filled for four years. Recently Laura Zeuner has replaced Pat as Recording Secretary, and we are thankful to Laura for assuming that important role. Since Pat no longer scribbles fast and furiously minute-taking, she has become a new face at Board meetings. She laughs when she says that she has held every non-profit board position possible in the past except that of secretary. Now she can add that to her resume.

Pat moved to Arizona permanently in 2000 from Pennsylvania after her husband Dick Parran died unexpectedly. She not only has two children here, Linda Pretty and Reed Peters, but she and her husband had formed an attachment to the area, kindled by Reed’s purchase of Cave Creek Ranch in 1998. Pat recalls 13 trips to Portal in two years when she supported her son in his “vision” when she could see none. Since that time she has taken an active role in design and decorating the rental units at the Ranch.
Pat Parran, Queen of Hummingbirds, refills feeders early in the morning at Cave Creek Ranch. (Photo by Reed Peters)
Pat’s family also consists of another son in Richmond, Virginia, and three grandchildren with whom she maintains regular contact, plus old and new friends from many locations. Her interest in Nature was kindled by her father while her mother fostered love and respect for animals.

She has delighted in discovering different species here which she then researches further, like Sonoran pronghorns, birds, and many insects, but her favorite bird remains the Northern Cardinal. Her interest in everything is infectious and inspires her colleagues on the Board.

We thank Pat for tomes of detailed minutes and now welcome her undivided attention at Board meetings. 
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Article and Photo by Bob Rodrigues

Rufous-winged Sparrow is a specialty species for Arizona. Its historical range consists of a relatively narrow corridor from Tucson south to Nogales and into Sonora, Mexico in mesquite scrub habitats. In recent years Rufous-winged Sparrow range has been expanding and one showed up in our yard on Foothills Road in February 2014. To my knowledge this was the first record for this species in the Portal area.

 Since then, we have seen it fairly consistently in the yard to the present, and it has often been reported by visitors to our bird feeders. I had never seen more than one Rufous-winged Sparrow at a time in our yard until the evening of June 7 when two birds were at our feeders.  In the last year or two there have been several other reports of Rufous-winged Sparrow in the Portal area. This is certainly a species that birders in the Portal area should be on the lookout for.
Rufous-winged Sparrow has a rufous crown, is streaked above and un-streaked below. Two blackish “whisker” marks are fairly conspicuous on either side of the whitish throat. The rufous coloring on the wing is confined to a small spot at the bend of the wing which is often not visible in the field.
Cave Creek Canyon: Revealing the Heart of Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains 2nd Edition $19.95

Two ways to order online

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

Lifetime Members ~ One Time $1500 Donation
Jacqueline Foutz
Mike Leuthold
Pat Parran
Steve & Laura Paulson
Reed Peters
Rick & Joan Schneider
Delia Scholes
Denise Ward
Mike and Cecil Williams
Sustainer's Circle Members
[$250 annually]
Kirby Alguire
Tom Arny
Thomas & Mary Cartwright
Walt Mayberry & Kay Copenhaver
Charles and Mary George
Bill and Sally Hague
Paul Hirt and Linda Jakse
Don Hollister
Pi Irwin & Zsombor Zoltan
Fritz and Gayle Jandry
Claudia Kirscher
Rae and Jim Ludke

Patrick McNamara
John and Karin McQuillan
Barbara Miller
Cecilia Raak
David Rorick
Tom Roseman and Paula Baldwin
Lee Simpson and Howard Szczech
Andrew & Ellen Stepniewski
John and Linda Sumner
James Judy Taylor
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
Would you or a friend like to submit an article for the FOCCC Newsletter? Our goal is to share information about current events in the Canyon.

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