27 – Biological surveys (2014)

(This is a part of a series of gleanings from the history of CRC’s 30 years of work; additional posts available here.)

Occasionally CRC has supported worthy biological surveys.

In July 2013, CRC contributed to a USFS Bird Survey Project. Scientists and local birders, including the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, initiated a bird survey with the goal of determining the impact of the Horseshoe 2 Fire on avifauna of the Chiricahua Mountains.

Protocols developed by the Rocky Mountain Research Station were used in a survey in 2012, but unfortunately those protocols could not be used effectively in our steep, treacherous terrain. An attempt was made in 2013 to change the transects: they were shortened, and placed on gentler terrain. Details of the several-year study are summarized in Developing a Monitoring Program for Bird Populations in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, Using Citizen Observers: Initial Stages. You can read the results here. 

In April 2014, CRC gave $2000 towards the annual Cave Creek Canyon Trogon Census. Rick Taylor started the Elegant Trogon census many years ago. In 2013, Rick teamed with Tucson Audubon Society to expand the survey to other Sky Island ranges in Southeast Arizona.

Iconic Elegant Trogons in South Fork during the 2012 census
(Photo by Narca Moore)

Trogons in the Chiricahuas––their traditional stronghold in the US––declined precipitously after the Horseshoe 2 Fire in 2011. After the fire, damaging floods from Hurricane Odile in September 2014 further altered their habitat. From a normal count of about 20 individuals during the 1990s, Elegant Trogons numbered only nine in 2014. In 2015, that number inched up to 10 birds, an incremental increase, as their riparian habitat slowly recovered. Luckily, trogon numbers in the other Sky Island ranges have been increasing, offsetting the current low numbers in the Chiricahuas.

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