AMERICAN CANYON — Diane Dela Cruz and Stephen Wong are walkers but not birders. However, on Saturday morning, both got up early for a guided birding tour of the wetlands near American Canyon, curious to find out what was going on along the Napa River and Bay Trail.
“It’s fun,” said Fremont resident Wong, 28, as he and Dela Cruz, 26, of American Canyon, observed willets, widgeon ducks, buffleheads, white-tailed kites and other birds, thanks to the pairs of binoculars a volunteer had lent them.
The guided walk along the Napa River and Bay Trail, led by Robin Leong of the Napa-Solano Audubon Society, was organized as part of the 17th annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival, a three-day event based on Mare Island that draws birders from the entire region. The event ends Sunday.
“We are here at American Canyon wetlands trying to show these youngsters and older people — we don’t discriminate — the bird life right in their backyard,” said Leong, of Vallejo, a birder since the late 1970s, after leading the three-hour-plus tour.
In addition to having guided walks for birders young and old, Audubon Society volunteers set out scopes at various stations where they pointed to the wildlife that lives within walking distance of some of American Canyon’s newer neighborhoods. Young children were handed “treasure hunt” lists of items to look for along the way, including a duck, hawk, animal tracks, a squirrel and trash.
Stacey Harrington came from Napa with her daughters Rylee, 8, and Emery, 5.
“I wanted to bring the girls to look at the birds. It’s really nice out here,” said Harrington as Rylee peeked into a scope to look at ducks swimming on reconstructed wetlands.
By 11:30 a.m., a volunteer counted 99 people who had walked past the volunteers’ welcoming tables.
“That’s not bad after two and a half hours,” said Todd Novak, a member of American Canyon’s Open Space Advisory Committee, who was volunteering with logistics on Saturday.
Mark Joseph, American Canyon’s vice mayor, was out walking on the trails Saturday.
“Slowly but surely the word gets out,” he said, referring to the wetlands and trails around him. “Anytime you come out here, you usually run into 20 to 30 people in little groups.”
The city wants to promote the Flyway Festival even more in American Canyon, Joseph and others said. The city, which owns about 25 acres of land nearby, could use a building there for an art exhibit during the festival, he said. The city has been slowly planning the land use for years.
“All it takes is money and time,” Joseph said.
Daveta Cooper, a retired librarian from Vallejo, said she enjoyed the guided walk and the trails.
“The areas are beautiful but nobody knows about it,” said Cooper, a relatively new birder. “I’ll come back.”