Turnbull Canyon Hike

Angélica Escobar
4 min readFeb 12, 2020

During my environmental journalism class I was able to explore the hiking trails connected to my school Whittier College and the community that surrounds it. The walk all the way to trails made me open up a third eye you could say because I was told to really pay attention to my environment which is my school and the neighborhood right next to it. I was able to listen to a variety of birds in the various trees [which are of the pepper and eucalyptus species] on my way up to the trails. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the exact species of bird I was listening to because Whittier is the home to about over 90 species of birds according to Esther Craigmile due to the weed patches that cover the Turnbull Canyon trail during the rainy season. These weed patches are a hotspot for birds because it is what houses them during the cold weather and what feeds them during the summer and fall when it is extremely dry.

The Turnbull Canyon is 4 miles long [3,680 acres in the Puente Hills] and is part of the Puente Hills Preserve. It is in the central part of the preserve and is an east-west canyon that has steep drainage. The canyon is covered in sycamore trees, and the slopes have various herbs such as: sage, parsley, and rosemary, and the canyon native and non-native grasses. To add, these trails are right next to the Puente Hills Landfills (owned by the San Gabriel Dump), which came to be in 1957, and then in the 1970’s it became a regional sanitation facility. To reduce the load Puente Hills has been deliberately trying to recycle the various materials that end up in the landfill to gain electricity from the methane. This is when a new plan came to be, in 1994 the Puente Hills Landfill organized a plan to turn the landfill into a park after it closed in 2013, which would also be sponsored by the Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority to preserve, maintain, and improve the environment of the Puente Hills. That being said, while I was on my hike I was able to witness the smell of the sage when I first entered the trail, it was a delightful smell. Also, every step I took on the trail I believe scared certain birds that inhabited the weeds I was talking about in the beginning because they would often fly out or leave when I would pass by them. It also could have been rabbits that were in the bushes too, but I most likely think they were birds because I don’t think that there were rabbits in every weed bush that I walked by.

Also, the birds I heard almost sound tropical, it almost sounded like a chorus. Well, I did a little bit of research and it turns out that Whittier is the home to Red-crowned parrots because of the large supply of tall maple and pine trees available, the birds have a perfect canopy to call home. According to the Los Angeles Daily News at a minimum of 40 parrots live in the trees near Palm Park in the evening and leave in the morning in search of food. Over the past couple of years [approximately 5 years] these birds have increased in numbers according to the people who reside in Uptown Whittier due to the size of the flocks of these tropical flocks getting bigger and bigger every time they see the birds. These parrots aren’t the tiny ones you would expect them to be, these are big green and red parrots, the kind you see in a pet store. This growth of parrots has become very apparent to the residents of Whittier, but it is very hard to prove because according to Kimball L. Garrett [ornithology collections manager for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County] “It’s a little tough to distinguish between a true population increase and birds moving from one area to another, and it depends on the species,” said Garrett, who is also founder of the California Parrot Project. Moreover, the hike wasn’t that long because my class only did the first part of it, most likely a mile. But, it was nonetheless really pretty still when we did get to the top part of the hill.

At the top I was able to see Long Beach, and the Catalina Islands because there wasn’t much smog in the air. Another thing in the sky that I noticed was a bunch of ravens circling the sky, while a hawk chased them, and even tried to attack them. I think the hawk succeeded in attacking the raven, but I’m not sure because I was too far away from where the birds were and the trees were blocking my view. To add, there was a lot of poop on the trails from people’s dogs, which I believe is bad because people should learn how to clean up after their pets, especially on the trails.