To Friends Of
Cave Creek Canyon
2019 - YEAR OF THE TROGON
Steve Wolfe took this and says "there's no meat to a walking stick".
This has certainly been the year of the Elegant Trogon. As Dave Jasper says, "it's the best year in at least 10 years". Dave should know as he has been the foremost bird guide in Portal for the last 25 years.
The Elegant Trogon is the most sought after bird by birders coming to this area. Even people who are not birders are quite interested in seeing them. Every day people come into the Visitor Information Center either asking where they can see a Trogon or reporting where they just saw one.
Female Elegant Trogon by Steve Wolfe
Elegant Trogons by Helen Snyder
Who can forget their first sighting of the Elegant Trogon? For many, a trogon was the Grail Bird that brought them south to remote Portal, almost to Mexico, in search of this life bird. With its size, big yellow hooked beak, ringing voice, and colors of the Mexican flag, the first impression is that it's more parrot than songbird. Though it's the weight of a thrasher, about 2.5 ounces, it is almost a foot long, much of that length being tail.
Once our residents arrive in April and May, with a little time and effort you'll find one in the cool green closed-canopy riparian forest above the Visitor Information Center. South Fork has been the classic and most dependable stretch of forest where your chances are best of seeing this lifer. Though trogons are migratory, one or two sometimes winter in South Fork, an indication of just how perfect a place it is for this bird.
[by Maya Decker]
South Fork became the national focus for trogon searches over forty years ago when the numbers of baby-boomer birders and bird photographers was growing. New field guides, better optics and camera equipment were making birding such a popular pastime that adding life birds became a mission for many. There were no rules in South Fork then against playing recorded vocalizations to attract trogons the way there is now, and nests were easily found and staked out. Photographers were accused of trimming obscuring branches around nests, birders were accused of trampling vegetation underfoot, and the grumbling discontent was growing.
Young birder Rick Taylor was working on a Portal fire crew for the Coronado National Forest's Douglas Ranger District in the 70's. He witnessed the ongoing human pressure on the trogons and asked his boss to let him take a half a day off to make a handsome cautionary sign that was posted at the entrance to South Fork, complete with a colorful trogon in bas relief.
It stood till the USFS administration decided it had to come down, as their job was and is the management of the forest - the vegetation part, not the animals in it. Rick's sign disappeared but his and the public's concern continued, leading eventually to the formal prohibition against vocalization playbacks in South Fork and its designation as a Zoological Botanical Area.
Photograph by Rick Taylor from his
Hiking Trails and Wilderness Routes of the Chiricahua Mountains.
The Coppery-tailed Trogon's name was later changed to the Elegant Trogon, and despite its popularity today it remains a little-studied bird. Annual 'Trogon counts' happen around June 1 every year, started by Rick Taylor and now facilitated by Tucson Audubon Society. Volunteers spread out in the riparian zone, listening for calling trogons and documenting the time and direction of sightings.
These data are analyzed to yield a minimum count and in recent years, the Cave Creek-South Fork population has been under a dozen birds, down by half from higher years before extreme drought took its toll. This past winter of 2018-2019 brought much better rains and the environment is responding encouragingly. Hopefully this year's pairs will get busy and multiply. The species is capable of fledging three young at a time though two is usual, and two broods a year is possible though not common.
[Editor: the June 6, 2019 count resulted in 18 birds seen in the Chiricahua Mountains]
How long do trogons live? No banding study has ever been done - but with every bird being photographed well multiple times within a year and between years, it should be possible to use the intricate fine bands of black and white on the underside of the tail to identify individuals from one year to the next for a demographic study! These tail markings are like bar codes, specific to the individual. Other animals' bar code-like markings have been used to identify individuals this way, from California Condors to right whales to snakes. It's an ideal hands-off way to study longevity and survivorship in a small population like ours, now that digital photography is with us. Each Elegant Trogon is probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the economy of Portal - it's worth studying.
[Both by Tony Donaldson]
Another species of trogon occasionally finds its way here: the larger, heavier Eared Trogon, a bird of high-elevation mixed conifer forest just over the
border in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental where it is relatively common. Word of an Eared
re has led birders to pack up and drive non-stop 2000 miles to
One such sighting in
the 70's m
ade the national news and attracted our Congressional re
presentative Mo Udall to Portal where Rick Taylor and Barb Roth guided hi
m on his search.
Spring Garden Party 2019
In May we held our 7th Annual Garden Party and it was our most successful
Party yet! Over 225 people came to the Visitor Information Center that day.
They saw great exhibits, had good & free food, tried to beat the W
at his game, and played with
Forest Service Fire Crew came with Smokey!
Thanks to the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona for their $500 Sponsorship Grant to support the Spring Garden Party. Legacy Foundation has also provided a $4000 grant to FOCCC which helped FOCCC put porta-potties in Cave Creek Canyon and Willow Tank. Thank you, Legacy!
Flowers of the Chiricahua Mountains - May & June
by Michael Jacobi
Western Blue Flag Iris
Mountain Goldenbean New Mexico Lupine
New Mexico Groundsel Seep Monkeyflower
Have You Seen the Changes at the VIC?
[Visitor Information Center]
As most of you know Friends of Cave Creek Canyon manages the VIC. In 2018 we made many changes to the grounds and to the front room, including adding a small sales presence. [All of the profits are used to operate the VIC and forest projects].
In 2019, we have made many additions to the front room displays. The major 2019 improvement is the opening of the Display Room. This room was opened to the public a few weeks ago at the Garden Party. It includes photos of many different aspects of the canyon: CCC Camp, geology, mammals, spiders and tarantulas. Birds, butterflies and trails remain the focus in the front room.
[pictures by Cecil Williams]
This display room is still a work in progress. We are always interested in new images and artifacts to display. If you have any please respond to this email.
Many different people contributed to the renovation of this room and the front room of the VIC. Special thanks go to Greg Wayman, Rolf Koford, Dave Baird, Tony Donaldson, and Michael Jacobi. Without them, we would not have been successful.
We also really appreciate the support of the Forest Service and in particular Doug Ruppel, District Ranger for the Douglas District. Without their support and encouragement this project would not even have been possible.
July 26-27, 2019
It's Great Fun!
Organized by the Chiricahua Desert
BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Teams of volunteer scientists, naturalists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible during an intensive field study over a continuous time period (e.g., usually 24 hours).
Chiricahua Desert Museum 575-557-5757
Friends Of Cave Creek Canyon
We are replacing our membership software and your renewal notices may be delayed. Do not worry - we will not cancel your FOCCC membership!
FOCCC 2019 Officers and Board
Reed Peters President
Other Board Members
Sheri Ashley Vice President
Mike Williams Vice President
Stevie Wayman 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
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Thanks to our "Sustainer's Circle" members
for their generous support:
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