Size: 4.2 square miles, 2,657 acres
Visiting the IBA: Access to the Tonto National Forest, including the Seven Springs Recreation Area and the Cave Creek Trail, is via Seven Springs Road (Forest Road 24) north of Scottsdale. The Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and the Jewel of the Creek Preserve are located at the north end of Spur Cross Road in Cave Creek. Access to the Seitts and Watt preserves is via an easement at the intersection of Creek Canyon Road and Cloud Road in Cave Creek. The Desert Enclave Preserve is accessible from the west via Cloud Road. Public access is allowed on the Tonto National Forest, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and designated locations on Desert Foothills Land trust properties.
Ownership: Tonto National Forest, Spur Cross Conservation Area (Maricopa County Park), Desert Foothills Land Trust, Private (Permission only).
Site Description: Cave Creek Ecosystem IBA is located in the Sonoran Desert Eco-region, specifically the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran desert scrub biome. The IBA encompasses cottonwood/ willow/sycamore and mesquite bosque riparian areas along with associated desert scrub uplands. Flowing or standing water is present in many places and there is considerable elevation change and habitat diversity in this IBA. Much of the land is publicly owned and in a natural undisturbed state. It is an exceptional example of a lowland mesic and xeric southwestern riparian community with adjoining undisturbed high quality upland Sonoran desertscrub vegetation. The perennial water found in reaches of Cave Creek supports a healthy high quality cottonwood/willow and sycamore vegetation and ecological community.
Birds: The IBA is within the Cave Creek and Carefree Christmas Bird Count. Species of special conservation status and interest that use the habitats within this IBA include:
Year-round: (Sonoran desert) Gambel’s Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Gilded Flicker, Gila Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Verdin, Cactus Wren, Blacktailed Gnatcatcher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Black-throated Sparrow, Abert’s Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Northern Cardinal and Lesser Goldfinch.
Breeding: (With the riparian community type) Common Black-Hawk, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Abert’s Towhee, Song Sparrow (localized to Jewel Preserve), Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, and Bullock’s Oriole. Sonoran desert; White-winged Dove, Costa’s Hummingbird, and Elf Owl
Conservation Concerns: Water quantity from upstream diversions, historic grazing.
Strategies: All of the IBA is excluded from cattle grazing and public recreation is primarily hiking and equestrian use on developed trails. Spur Cross Conservation Area and Tonto National Forest Land Use Plan.
Stewards: Desert Foothills Land Trust www.dflt.org/
Maps of this Important Bird Area:
State of the IBAs 2014 Baseline – More Technical info about the status of this Important Bird Area
Complete eBird.org Checklist of birds Reported for Cave Creek Ecosystem IBA
For an interactive map and habitat and land ownership analysis of this IBA visit the National Audubon IBA Map and select “Arizona” and then the name of this Important Bird Area. To access analysis graphs, click on the map boundary of the IBA.
Location: North of Phoenix
Site Status: Identified 06/2009
Ownership: Tonto National Forest, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Town of Cave Creek, Desert Foothills Land Trust Preserves, and Private within the Town of Cave Creek Open Space Master Plan
Area: 4.2 square miles, 2,657 acres
Criteria: B1: (Potential): Continental: Species of Conservation Concern (Abert’s Towhee, Gilded Flicker, Elf Owl)
D1: State: Species of Conservation Concern
D3: Rare or Exceptional Representative Habitat/Ecological Community
Site Description: Private lands are closed to the public. Public access is allowed on the Tonto National Forest, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and designated locations on Desert Foothills Land trust properties.
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Ornithological Summary: Three Audubon WatchList species are found in very high abundance, they are: Abert’s Towhee (Yellow listed, high of 14.6 birds detected/km), Lucy’s Warbler (Yellow listed, 7.7 birds/km), and Bell’s Vireo (Red listed, 7.5 birds/km), the first resident and nesting, the latter two migrants and nesting. Two other Audubon WatchList species are also found within this IBA, Costa’s Hummingbird (Yellow listed) and Gilded Flicker (Red listed), both nesting and year round residents. Common Black-Hawks (AZ Game and Fish listed Species of Greatest Conservation Need, Tier 1b), one pair, are within the Seven Springs area. Elf Owl, an Audubon WatchList species (Yellow listed), breeds within the IBA. The full avian community associated with the riparian community type, include breeding populations of Black Phoebe, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Abert’s Towhee, Song Sparrow (localized to Jewel Preserve), Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, and Bullock’s Oriole. Furthermore the site represents a high quality example of the Sonoran desertscrub community and supports the full range of bird species associated with this ecological community type, including healthy populations of Gambel’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Verdin, Cactus Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Black-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal and Lesser Goldfinch.
Conservation Issues: The Cave Creek Complex Fire ravaged much of the Cave Creek watershed in 2005. The proposed IBA was largely spared. However, subsequent floods damaged low lying vegetation, washed away soil and exposed considerable cobble that remains today.
There are two active water rights at Seven Springs, both of which allow for withdrawals from Seven Springs Wash. One is a privately held right for 90 acre feet/year that predates the Forest Service. This water is available for domestic and agricultural use. The permittee withdraws water for a commercial bottled water operation. Water use is monitored by the Cave Creek Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest, which has a right of 488 acre feet/year to maintain the riparian vegetation and provide water for recreational purposes. Sufficient flow is being maintained in Seven Springs Wash and Cave Creek, as riparian vegetation continues to thrive in these drainages.