where, when, and what to find

Little Cottonwood Canyon -- Mouth (incl. La Caille)

posted by Tim Avery at
on Sunday, January 11, 2015 

Little Cottonwood Creek Trail from Google Street View

This location actually encompasses a couple sub-locations.  At one time there were at least 2 hot spots and for some odd reason they were combined.  One location was for the Little Cottonwood Creek Trail down stream from Wasatch Blvd including La Caille.  The other location was the actual mouth of the canyon.  The 2 areas are markedly different in where you can bird , while the habitat is the same--but both will be talked about here.  The Canyon Mouth is typically thought of being at the park and ride where the road starts going up canyon.  The habitat here included the mountain sides and cliffs with a predominantly Gambel's Oak Woodland, and the riparian habitat along the creek.

The other location is about a mile downstream from here and accessed via Wasatch Blvd at La Caille restaurant.  Here a trail follows the creek downstream in riparian habitat with some Gambel's Oak woodland on the edges.  At La Caille there is a pond that is warmed and open year round, as well as very thick riparian habitat that can be birded from the road.

At the park and ride you can bird the parking lot edges, as well as a trail up the hillside to the north through the oak.  This is one of the easiest locations to get VIRGINIA'S WARBLER during the breeding season from Salt Lake (they are found around the valley edges int his habitat). SPOTTED TOWHEE can be found here year round, while in the summer LAZULI BUNTING, BLACK-CHINNED HUMMIGBIRD, and BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER are a common sight.  The cliffs above are home to 100's of WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS. Several BLACK SWIFT from up canyon have been reported form here as well.  Scan the ridgelines here for birds of prey year round, like PEREGRINE FALCON, GOLDEN EAGLE, and SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. In the summer TURKEY VULTURE are often seen soaring here and during fall migration hawk often pass over the canyon mouth here.  BROAD-WINGED HAWK has been seen just to the south in Bell's Canyon.

The other location at La Caille lacks the cliffs so those birds are rarely seen here.  But the riparian habitat is much easier to access and the trail leading along the creek provides great birding year round.  During migration look for warblers and other migrants. WESTERN TANAGER can be seen occasionally in the spring.  One of the better finds here was a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK during spring migration.  During the summer LAZULI BUNTING, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, YELLOW WARBLER, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE are common sights along the creek.  At the pond at La Caille there is a resident MUTE SWAN (not wild) year round that loves to pose for photos.  MALLARDS and CANADA GEESE can both be found her occasionally. In recent years a RED-TAILED HAWK has nested here and is often seen soaring or heard calling.  And WESTERN SCRUB-JAY are common all along the road here.

From the intersection of Wasatch Blvd at 7000 S/E Fort Union (the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon), travel south on Wasatch Blvd for 2.2 miles.  To go to La Caille turn right here and continue another .8 miles to the dirt pullouts on your right to park.  IF you want to go to the park and ride, instead of turning right stay straight another 1.6 miles from the turn off to La Caille and the parking are will be on your left.  The entire area can be driven in a loop by turning right across from the park and ride and following the road back to Wasatch. Here you can turn right and be back at La Caille in .2 miles.

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