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Adult Classes and Field Trips


ANS offers walks and classes on the wild side throughout the area.  Check out a map of our field trip destinations. 

Explore the Great Outdoors with the Experts!

These programs offer nature novices and experienced naturalists alike an array of opportunities to explore and learn about our area’s natural history. All programs are led by experienced naturalists. Lectures are held at Woodend Sanctuary. Field trips are reached by private vehicle or carpool.

Questions? Email Senior Naturalist Stephanie Mason or call Stephanie at 301-652-9188 x37. For registration information, email Pam Oves or call Pam at 301-652-9188 x16. To register for a program, please mail or fax the registration form or register online.





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  • All adult program participants will be "New Users" the first time they register.
  • All changes/cancellations/transfers must be handled through the EE office.
  • Have a credit postcard? Call Pam at 301-652-9188 x 16 to hear options.
  • Questions? Call Pam at 301-652-9188 x16 or email pam.oves@anshome.org

May I bring along children on ANS adult field trips?

janice browne_adultprograms

Cancellation Policy

To qualify for a credit if you cancel a program, you must give at least six business days' notice, i.e. you can't cancel on a Monday for a weekend program and still receive a credit. Call 301-652-9188 x 16 or email Pam Oves to cancel.

If ANS cancels a program due to low enrollment, you will receive a full refund. If a weather-related concern or another issue outside of ANS's control forces a cancellation, you will receive a full credit to your credit.

Upcoming Classes / Field Trips 



Winter Birding at Oaks Landfill
A: Sunday, January 24 (3-5:30 pm) RESCHEDULED TO 2/28 (3:30-6 pm)
B: Sunday, February 14 (3:30-6 pm) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Mark England
Each walk: Members $20; nonmembers $28
You’ll want to bundle up for these birding treks to the now-closed landfill adjacent to the Blue Mash Nature Trail, a familiar birding spot in upper Montgomery County. As afternoon fades to dusk in the open terrain here, we’ll search for resident and overwintering species, including Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls. Our leader will bring along a scope for distant bird viewing. Our visit to this area which is “closed to the public” is by special permission.

Usa great falls potomac md 2004 01 31 aPresident’s Day Hike on the Canal: Swain’s Lock to Great Falls Loop FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE

Monday, February 15 (10 am-2:30 pm)
Leader: Cathy Stragar
Members $24; nonmembers $34

Got the day off? Join us for our annual, mid-February holiday hike. This year, we’ll head downriver along the C&O Canal towpath from Swain’s Lock to Great Falls to enjoy views from the islands, made accessible by boardwalks. We’ll retrace our steps along the towpath back to our cars at Swain’s Lock for a total hike of 4.6 miles. As we pass by floodplain forests and wetlands, we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for winter birds and other active wildlife, while practicing our winter botany skills.


Woodend Master Plan Walks

B: Tuesday, February 16 (10-11 am)
C: Tuesday, March 15 (10-11 am)
Leader: Lisa Alexander
Free, but registration required for each session.

Tour Woodend with the Executive Director to learn more about the Woodend Master Plan now under development and to share your ideas for transforming our beloved nature sanctuary into a premier environmental destination for the region.  


Winter Walks Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section B: January 27 - Widewater - CANCELLED - RESCHEDULED FOR MARCH 16
Section C: February 17 - Swain’s Lock - FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section D: March 2 - Great Falls - FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $72/$100
Join our Senior Naturalist for one or all of these walks along the C&O Canal as we look for over-wintering birds and other wildlife, practice winter botany skills, and enjoy the expansive views along the Potomac River that this season provides. Carpooling will be available from Woodend.


Saturday, February 20 (9:30 am-5:30 pm)
Leader: John Bjerke
Members $34; nonmembers $46
Bundle up and enjoy Ocean City, MD, without the crowds while we learn to identify birds that winter in and along the mid-Atlantic coast. Here and at other locations, including Cape Henlopen and Broadkill Marsh, we’ll look for loons, sea ducks, raptors, and winter songbirds. We’ll hope to find, identify, and discuss the natural history of birds, such as the Red-throated Loon, Harlequin Duck, Northern Gannet, and Snow Bunting. This field trip is aimed at beginning and mid-level birders, but all are welcome. Our meeting point is about a 3-hour drive from Woodend.


Comets and Meteors - and their Influence on the Natural History of the Earth
Thursdays (7:30-9:30 pm)
C: March 17
Leader: Marla Moore
Free but registration required for each session.
Explore the science of comets and meteors with retired NASA scientist, Marla Moore. Her first talk will cover facts about comets, and look at the historical perceptions of comet appearances. There will also be a chance to make an icy comet nuclei in class. Our second session will cover meteors, recent and past impact events, and a summary of what meteors are made of and where they come from. Lecture three will look at how comets and meteors have changed the Earth’s environment since its origin. These presentations will be gauged for non-scientists.


flyingsquirrel croppedNight Gliders

Saturday, February 27 (5:30-7 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28

In many woodlands they outnumber our common gray squirrel, yet flying squirrels remain mysterious mammals seldom encountered by diurnal creatures, such as ourselves. Join us for a walk to observe their nocturnal activities, followed by a slide discussion of flying squirrels’ natural history. The program will be conducted on our Woodend grounds where staff have hung flying squirrel nesting boxes, as well as a feeding platform.


A Year at Boundary Bridge

Saturdays (9 am-2 pm)
Section A: February 27
Section B: April 9
Section C: June 11
Section D: October 29
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Each walk members $30; nonmembers $42
Entire series $102/$143

Join the author of the award-winning book, A Year in Rock Creek Park—the Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, DC, for our 10th year of hikes in one of D.C.’s most beautiful wild areas. Celebrating the National Park Service’s Centennial during 2016, we’ll start at Boundary Bridge and follow the same 2.5 mile loop trail each season, admiring and IDing the rich plant life along a scenic stretch of Rock Creek. We’ll also see and hear many species of birds, butterflies, and amphibians. Melanie will introduce the Japanese concept of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, a mindful and sensory form of nature meditation with proven health benefits, during a portion of each of her 2016 walks. On our winter walk, an ideal time to admire the Park’s topography, we’ll look and listen for winter flocks, identify many species of woody plants, and find the first skunk cabbages in bloom. In April, we’ll witness the spring magic of Rock Creek’s myriad wildflowers. As summer arrives in the Park, we’ll hope for a glimpse of a kingfisher as we look for ferns and early seasonal wildflowers such as enchanter’s nightshade. Autumn is glorious in Rock Creek Park, and we’ll conclude our series with a walk through colorful oaks, maples, and ashes, searching for the flowers of an early witch hazel in bloom. Our hike will be on trails with moderate uphill and downhill walking. An ANS/Rock Creek Conservancy Partnership.


Winter Hikes Along the Potomac River
B: Sunday, February 28 (10 am-2 pm) - Riverbend Park to Great Falls Park, VA (3.8 mi round trip)
Leaders: Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar
Hike A: Members $34; nonmembers $46
Hikes B: Members $24; nonmembers $34
Take on two of your New Year’s resolutions at once: spend more time outdoors exploring nature AND get more exercise by signing up for our hikes along the scenic Potomac River. We’ll search for overwintering birds and other winter-active wildlife, while practicing our winter botany skills. Hike A follows the flat C&OCanal towpath. Hike B, which is round trip, uses the Potomac Heritage Trail with a very minimal amount of rocky terrain. All trails could be muddy. Hikes could be modified depending on weather and ground conditions.



Early Spring in Cape May  DATE CHANGED TO MARCH 18-20 - 1 SPOT LEFT
Friday, March 4 (5 pm) to Sunday, March 6 (1 pm)
Leader: Mark Garland
Members $100; nonmembers $140
Savor the first blush of spring along the Atlantic coast at Cape May, New Jersey. We’ll begin our weekend activities on Friday evening with a search for Short-eared Owls and other marsh birds at a site about 45 minutes north of Cape May. On Saturday we’ll reconvene to visit forest, field, and wetlands in Cape May to search for songbirds, waterfowl, and, if it’s a mild March, frogs, turtles, and butterflies. We will also visit coastal areas where we can scan for scoters, loons, gannets, and other birds on and along the waters of the Atlantic and Delaware Bay. Saturday evening we will watch for displaying woodcocks and listen for owls and frogs. Sunday morning will give us another chance for exploring this rich area. We’ll send you information on overnight options in Cape May, including motels and B&Bs.  

woodcock-courtshipWoodcock Watch  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Saturday, March 5 (5:15-7:15 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28
In his Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold described the mating display of the American Woodcock as a “sky dance.” Announcing its presence with nasal “peents”, the male woodcock ascends high in the sky at dusk. To the accompaniment of a constant twittering, it circles, then plummets back to earth in a series of zigzag movements, wings whistling. On this field program to a natural area in upper Montgomery County, we’ll hope to be lucky enough to catch a performance of this seasonal drama.

Winter Birding at Black Hill
Section D: Sunday, March 6 (8:30-11 am)
Leader: Mark England
Members $20; nonmembers $28
The winter months can be an ideal time to learn more about birds and birding, and Black Hill Regional Park, in upper Montgomery County, is an ideal outdoor classroom for this study. Each walk in our series, intended for beginning to mid-level birders, will visit one or more sites in the Park in a search for waterfowl, sparrows, raptors, and other both resident and overwintering species. The Park’s habitats are varied and include wetlands and Little Seneca Lake, as well as forest and field. Join us for the entire series and observe the seasonal changes in numbers and species, or just sign up for individual walks.

Geology of Theodore Roosevelt Island
Sunday, March 6 (9:30 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24: nonmembers $34
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a showcase of geology, befitting the energetic environmentalist whom it honors. Ancient Piedmont bedrock exposures occur at the northern end, while modern Coastal Plain deposits form the eastern and southern portions. Surrounded by the Potomac River, the island features natural levees and backswamps (like the Mississippi), a tidal inlet and marsh (like Chincoteague), and garnet-bearing rocks (like the Blue Ridge). All within walking distance of the Metro! We’ll hike several miles around the island, interpreting the story told by the rocks and soil. The pace set and distance covered on this geology field trip is typically faster and farther than our usual “naturalist’s shuffle.”

Fairy RingWindow into the World of Fungi
Thursday, March 10 (7-9:30 pm)
Leader: Tovi Lehmann
Free, but registration required.
Rooted, yet not plants, heterotrophs, but not animals (growing in fairy rings, yet not even fairies), fungi are members of another kingdom. Mostly hidden under the surface, fungi have evolved their own solutions to life’s persistent problems. Gaining the recognition for their pivotal role in shaping the living world, they now reshape fundamental perceptions of biologists. In this lecture at our Woodend Sanctuary, we will explore the natural history and ecology of our local fungal neighbors, rather than focus on the edibility of particular species of mushrooms.

Natural Heritage Hike: Catoctin Mountain Park
Friday, March 11 (10 am-4 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
A little more than an hour northwest of Washington lies Catoctin Mountain, the front edge of the Blue Ridge in Maryland. We’ll explore the national park that protects this area during its quieter season, and observe the plants and animals that inhabit its woodlands and waterways. We’ll also consider the Mountain’s cultural history and past land uses on our hike of 3-4 miles, with some uphill and downhill hiking over rocky ground.

chipping sparrowLate Winter Birding in Howard County
Saturday, March 12 (full-day field trip)
Leader: Mike Bowen
Members: $34; nonmembers $46
With winter winding down, we’ll bundle up for one last foray to wetlands and woodlands to search for lingering winter waterfowl and other birds as well as some of the first returning migrants. We’ll explore several parks and natural areas in Howard County, visiting spots seldom frequented on ANS field trips. Our day’s exact itinerary will be determined closer to the date of our trip, based on weather, our leader’s scouting, and the size of the group.

Beginning Birding
Thursday, March 17 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, March 19 (8 am-2 pm)
Leader: Mark England
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only members $20; nonmembers $28
If you’re curious about birds and bird watching but don’t know where to begin, this class is for you. No experience is required! At our evening lecture, we’ll focus on the selection of field guides, binoculars, and other resources, and we’ll discuss the basic techniques of birding finding and identification. The goal of our field trip, which visits Black Hill and Little Bennett Regional Parks in upper Montgomery County, is to develop the ability to find, study, and identify birds in their natural environment.

early saxifrageEarly Spring Wildflower Hike
Saturday, March 26 (9 am-Noon)
Leader: Sujata Roy
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Beat the winter blues by joining this search for the earliest signs of spring wildflowers in the woods and bottomlands along the Potomac River near Carderock Recreation Area, just outside the Beltway. We’ll look for the greening leaves, swelling buds, and (fingers crossed) unfolding flowers of species such as Harbinger of Spring, Early Saxifrage, Spring Beauty, and Bloodroot. Our field Studies Spring flower ID instructor leads this hike over some uneven, rocky and likely muddy natural surface trails on a roughly 2-mile walk.

Spring Saunters Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section A: March 30 - Carderock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section B: April 13 - Widewater  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section C: April 27 - Swain’s Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section D: May 11 - Riley’s Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section E: May 25 - Violettes Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $85/$119
Enjoy one or all of these leisurely walks along portions of the C&O Canal. The focus of our walks, each beginning from a different location, will be general natural history of the varied habitats along the Potomac River and the Canal. We’ll proceed at a slow “naturalist’s shuffle” pace as we watch spring unfold. We’ll stop often to observe birds, wildflowers, butterflies, snakes, turtles, and whatever else we might find. Carpool from Woodend with the leader if you desire.


Fern Valley 3565489856Spring in the Parks
Saturdays (8 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
A: April 2 - Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, VA
B: April 30 - Rachel Carson Park, MD
C: May 14 - National Arboretum, DC
Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire series: $65; nonmembers $82
Join our Senior Naturalist for these broad-based nature explorations of close-by parks rich in natural history. We’ll walk between 2-3 miles in a search for spring wildflowers and seasonal wildlife activity, including birds, butterflies, and amphibians. Our first destination visits both upland and bottomland forest along the Potomac River, just outside the Beltway near Great Falls, VA. On our next expedition, we’ll explore woods near the Hawlings River in mid-Montgomery County. As the pulse of spring change slows down and the woods stand green, we’ll explore the Fern Valley section of the National Arboretum in the District of Columbia. All of our trips include some uphill/downhill (steepest on walks A and B) on natural surface trails, which are likely to be muddy and possibly slippery this time of year.

Budbreak at Carderock
Sunday, April 3 (9:30 am-1:30 pm)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley & Elizabeth Rives
Members $24; nonmembers $34
During spring in Washington, all eyes seem to be on the colorful wildflowers and showy migrating birds. But one of the greatest miracles of spring, the bursting buds of native trees and shrubs, is often overlooked. Join woody plant ID teachers Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Elizabeth Rives for a walk devoted to the identification and admiration of native trees and shrubs as their buds break and their leaves and flowers start to emerge! The leisurely 2-3 mile hike will mostly follow the C&O canal towpath, but we will venture down to the Potomac River on Section B of the Billy Goat Trail for a portion of the hike. This stretch involves some scrambling over rocks, a few steep sections, and some up and down, but we will move at a slow pace.

Coopers HawkHawks Aloft at Fort Smallwood Park
Sunday, April 3 (9 am-3 pm)
Leaders: Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Fort Smallwood, situated at the mouth of the Patapsco River where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, provides one of the region’s premier hawkwatching sites for spring raptor migration. If weather conditions are favorable, we can hope to see good numbers of hawks passing over the park at this season. Though the focus of the day will be watching hawks, there may also be time to look for the earliest songbird migrants, butterflies, and even wildflowers, depending on the day’s weather, the number of hawks aloft, and the interest of the group.

Introduction to Wildflower ID
Thursday, April 7 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, April 9 (9 am-3 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only members $20; nonmembers $28
In April, spring wildflowers in the Washington area are dazzling! We’ll spend Thursday evening at Woodend discussing books, equipment, and terminology for beginning wildflower identification. On Saturday we’ll travel to the Carderock area along the C&O Canal and explore several short trails between the Canal and the Potomac River. We’ll practice using keys to identify wildflowers and look for Virginia bluebells, dutchman’s breeches, twinleaf, toad trillium, and many other species. Expect some rocky, uneven terrain on the field trip.

Great Falls Park - VirginiaGeology of Great Falls, VA
Saturday, April 9 (9 am-2 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $30; nonmembers $42
The Potomac River drops about sixty feet at Great Falls and then enters a deep, narrow, mile-long gorge. For the last half century, geologists have conducted intensive studies of the Great Falls area, deciphering the evolution of the underlying bedrock and the present landforms. We will hike a 4-mile loop on the River Trail and the Old Carriage Road, discussing the sometimes surprising results of the research. The hike will be moderately strenuous, with some rocky, uneven, or muddy stretches and some uphill/downhill hiking. The pace set and distance covered on this geology field trip will be faster and farther than our usual “naturalist’s shuffle.”

Sights and Sounds of Early Spring
Sunday, April 10 (2-8 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Early spring wildlife activity is the focus of our excursion to the Riley’s Lock and Seneca Creek area along the Potomac River near Poolesville, MD.  We’ll walk between 2-3 miles along the C&O Canal, watching and listening for birds and all manner of seasonal wildlife activity, including butterflies, mammals, and reptiles and amphibians. We’ll also search for early spring wildflowers along the River’s rich floodplain. As the sun sets, we’ll revisit the wet woods, listening for owls and the raucous breeding chorus of frogs.

320px-Barred-Owl 9052Evening on the Canal
Friday, April 15 (6:45-8:45 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Early spring evenings can be alive with wildlife as you’ll discover on this stroll from Swain’s Lock up the C&O Canal towpath. We’ll watch for wildlife as the sun sets, and as twilight gives way to the darkness of night, we’ll listen for calling frogs and hooting Barred Owls while discussing the adaptations of these and other nocturnal animals.

Spring Early Birds (7 - 10 am)
A. Saturday, April 16 – Dyke Marsh, VA (Leader: Mike Bowen)
B. Sunday, April 24 – Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, DC (Leader: John Bjerke)
C. Saturday, May 7 – Governor’s Bridge, MD (Leader: Mark England)
D. Sunday, May 15 – Huntley Meadows, VA (Leader: Mike Bowen)
E. Saturday, May 21 – Riley’s Lock, MD (Leader: John Bjerke)
Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire series $102; nonmembers $145
Immerse yourself in the phenomenon of spring migration with this series of short bird walks at nearby parks. These walks are designed for beginning and intermediate birders for whom the spring migration can sometimes be overwhelming. On each walk we’ll search for songbirds by sight and sound. We’ll discuss the arrival sequence of spring migrants, practice spotting them in the forest and other field habitats, and learn the songs of many species.

Natural Heritage Hike: Calvert Cliffs State Park
Sunday, April 17 (full-day field trip)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $34; nonmembers $46
While most visit Calvert Cliffs State Park for the marine fossils along its Chesapeake Bay beach, this park in southern Maryland offers rich natural history as well. We’ll hike 4 miles of trails - out to the Bay and back - with lots of stops along the way, as we explore the coastal plain forests, marshland, and stream valley habitats of this protected area. We’ll look and listen for spring migrants, butterflies and dragonflies, and reptiles and amphibians, as we stroll past spring blooms.

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Spring Walk: Wednesday, April 20 (10 am-Noon)

Leader: Stephanie Mason
embers $20; nonmembers $28

Explore the Blair Native Plant Garden, located just outside the Sanctuary Shop, with our Senior Naturalist who helped develop the garden and its educational focus. Find out more about the values of gardening with native plant species, including: lower maintenance; more value to native birds, butterflies and other insects, including pollinators; reduced negative impact on local ecosystems, and more. We'll discuss native alternatives to popular non-native species such as English ivy, as well as resources for broadening one's knowledge and understanding of plants natives to the mid-Atlantic. You're welcome to bring along a bag lunch to eat with the leader after the walks, which are scheduled to highlight seasonal aspects of the Garden.

Earth Day Along the River
Friday, April 22 (10 am-2:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Join this Earth Day exploration of the season’s great burst of life in the bottomland woods along the Potomac River just above Great Falls, MD. Our Senior Naturalist leads this search for spring wildflowers, blooming trees, and early spring wildlife activity, including birds, butterflies, and amphibians. The natural surface river trail is mostly level, but could be muddy. Our round-trip walk is roughly 2.5 miles.

Falcate OrangetipSpring Butterflies of Hoyle’s Mill Conservation Park
Saturday, April 23 (10 am-3:30 pm)
Leaders: Dick Smith and Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Hoyle’s Mill Conservation Park in upper Montgomery County, preserves the largest diabase bedrock habitat in Maryland, making it a rich area of both common and uncommon plants. These plants are caterpillar hosts and nectar resources for spring butterflies, such as the pipevine swallowtail and its more common cousins: falcate orangetip; olive hairstreak; Eastern comma; and several species of duskywing skippers. We’ll look for these species and their associated plant communities along a mostly flat dirt/gravel road in the Park on a walk of 2-3 miles.

River Herring Return to Rock Creek
Saturday, April 23 (9 am-1 pm)
Leaders: Neal Fitzpatrick and Bill Yeaman
Free, but registration required.
Tom Horton describes the annual Rock Creek migration of herring in Bay Country: “No finer parade, or one more unappreciated, ever swung through this capital than the quicksilver legions of Alosa pseudoharengus, the common river herring.” On our four-hour walk, we hope to view the spawning run and discuss opportunities for restoring fish migration to Rock Creek. We will visit the fish ladder construction site at Peirce Mill. Meet at the Cleveland Park Metro Station and end at the Woodley Park/National Zoo/Adams Morgan Station. 19th annual walk!

Wood ThrushThe Speckled Songster is Back!
Thursday, April 28 (7:30-8:30 pm)
Leader: Steve Dryden
Free, but registration required.
DC's official bird, the Wood Thrush, is back in town after wintering in Mexico and south through Central America. Did you know that ANS played a major role in the selection of the Wood Thrush as First Bird in 1967? It's a story that in fact goes back at least as far as the 1860s, when naturalist John Burroughs marveled over the brown-speckled songster on the banks of the Washington's Piney Branch, a tributary of Rock Creek. Learn more about the Wood Thrush in DC and efforts to preserve and restore habitat for this species and other neo-tropical birds at both ends of their migratory journey. The speaker, Steve Dryden, is the director of Rock Creek Songbirds, a multi-year initiative to plant trees in Rock Creek National Park and engage the nearby Latino community.


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