It’s mid-July and summer is over in Southeastern Arizona. Now comes my favorite season, our fifth season, the Monsoon. We receive 80% of our rainfall in July, August and September although much of it falls in such violent downpours it runs off before replenishing the aquifers. The days all begin clear and warm and as the morning passes, clouds begin to build over the mountains. By afternoon huge, towering thunderheads move across the landscape bringing lightning, thunder, rain and winds to the thirsty desert. Often the storm cells are isolated; one mountain canyon will get three inches of rain while the adjacent canyon is dry. Storms miles away can fill desert washes with dramatic “flash floods” that transform a dry wash into a swirling river in a matter of minutes. Each year people drive into normally tame water crossings during rainstorms and require rescue. Arizona even enacted a “Stupid Motorist Law” that requires anyone who drove around a barricade to enter a wash and needed rescue to pay the cost of the rescue.
Monsoon season is our second spring. Many wildflowers bloom in the late summer after the rains. Some of our birds wait until August to nest and some of the spring nesters will nest again. Our deer and pronghorns have adjusted their breeding schedule to have their fawns in July and August rather than April and May as they do in most parts of the country to take advantage of the most dependable lush time of year. Hummingbirds that avoided the deserts on their way north in the Spring stream through Arizona on their way south in July, August and September to take advantage of the abundant wildflowers. Late summer is the best time for hummingbird viewing in southeastern Arizona. August may bring the “dog days” of summer to some parts of the country but in Arizona it is a time of refreshing rains, green grass and wildflowers and renewal.