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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  


CardinalFlowerMorning Paddle on the Potomac  1 SPACE LEFT
Saturday, August 6 (9-11 am)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Sujata Roy
Members $24; nonmembers $34 (does not include canoe/kayak rental fee)
Spend a summer morning with two wildflower instructors paddling along the shoreline of the Potomac River. We’ll be looking for seasonal blooms, such as cardinal flower, monkey flowers, Virginia dayflower, vervains, mallows, shrubby St. John’s-wort, swamp milkweed, false dragonweed, pickerelweed, and many other colorful riparian species. We will also hope to glimpse a bald eagle or osprey flying overhead, in addition to herons, ducks, turtles, dragonflies, butterflies and other aquatic life. Rent a canoe or kayak at Fletcher’s boathouse, or bring your own. Both single and double kayaks and canoes are available. Bring binoculars and your wildflower field guide in a zip-locked bag. NOTE: registration fee does not include boat rental.

Sunday, August 7 (9:15 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Members $28 nonmembers $40
We are happy to offer a Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing walk on a farm in Comus, MD near Sugarloaf Mountain. Numerous studies in Japan, Europe and North America have demonstrated the health benefits of spending quiet time immersed in nature, including lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lowered blood pressure, increased immune system function, and elevated mood (things that ANS members already knew!). We will walk less than a mile at a slow pace and spend quiet time sitting and watching summer wildflowers and nectaring butterflies.  Our leader says this walk is “more about being than IDing.” She has portable forest bathing stools to loan to each participant for the duration of the foray. Melanie welcomes any questions about this new form of nature meditation, which evolved from practices in Japan and Korea: mcb@melaniechoukas-bradley.com.

DamselflyIntroduction to Dragonfly and Damselfly Studies
Thursday, August 11 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Sunday, August 14 (3/4 day field trip)
Leader: Richard Orr
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only $20/$28
Grab your binoculars and prepare to set your sights not on birds — although “mosquito hawk” is a common moniker — but on those six-legged, aerial acrobats of wetland habitats: the dragonflies and damselflies. On Thursday evening, local entomologist and dragonfly expert Richard Orr will use slides and videos to discuss identification, biology, and behavior of the more common species of Odonates in our area. Our field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge (North Tract) near Bowie, MD, where our leader has conducted dragonfly studies, will give us a chance to test our identification skills.

Saturday, August 20 (8:30-11 am)
Leader: Cliff Fairweather
Members $24; nonmembers $34
All true bugs are insects, but not all insects are truly bugs. Confused?  In this field trip for beginning bug-huggers, a naturalist will try to clear up such confusion. Using the McKee-Beshers WMA near Poolesville as our outdoor classroom, we’ll learn to distinguish insects from related arthropods, and look for the identifying characteristics of major insect groups. Our leader will also talk about adaptations, life histories and ecology. Field conditions will include sunny, open areas with tall vegetation.

Introduction to the Natural History and ID of Shorebirds: Part 2BairdsSandpiper
Thursday, August 25 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, August 27 (full-day field trip)
Leaders: Cyndie Loeper and John Bjerke
Members $48; nonmembers $68
Lecture only $20/$28
Shorebirds are among the most spectacular migrants of the avian world.  Many species breed as far north as the Arctic tundra and winter as far south as Patagonia.  In this advanced session of our annual beginner’s class in late-May or mid-July, our leaders will review the natural histories of shorebirds and offer ID pointers in the classroom part of the workshop.  On the field trip to Delaware’s Bombay Hook, we’ll encounter the more difficult plumages of this time of year, including juveniles.  Our late August date will give us chances for rarities, such as Baird’s Sandpiper, and “grasspipers”, such as American Golden Plover and Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  Although the IDs can be more challenging in late summer, beginners who wish to experience the great diversity of species in southbound migration are welcome to sign up.

Crickets Count! Citizen Science Activity
Friday, August 26 (after dark)
Be a part of the third annual DC/Baltimore Cricket Crawl. Participants will learn the songs of eight species of crickets and katydids, then spend a few minutes to listen for their songs and send in their observations. For details on this citizen science project, which ANS is cosponsoring, check out this link: http://www.discoverlife.org/cricket/DC/. Rain date for the Cricket Count is August 27.


CommonBuckeyeFall Butterflies of the Occoquan Wildlife Refuge
Saturday, September 10 (full-day field trip)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $34; nonmembers $46
A former military research station, the 644-acre Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers south of Alexandria, VA. More than 60 butterfly species have been recorded among its wet meadows, expanses of native grasses, and extensive shoreline. We’ll explore a variety of habitats for late-season butterflies, such as Sleepy Orange, Buckeye, Cloudless Sulphur, and Monarch, among others. We’ll walk up to 3 miles in generally open and sunny terrain.  

Fall Birding Series
A: Sunday, September 11: Paint Branch Trail, MD (Mark England) (7-10 am) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
B. Saturday, September 24: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, DC (Mike Bowen) (7-10 am) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
C: Sunday, October 2: Blue Mash Nature Trail, MD (Mark England) (7:30-10:30 am) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
D: Saturday, October 15: Occoquan Bay NWR (Mike Bowen) (7:30-10:30 am)
E: Sunday, October 23: Patuxent River Park/Jug Bay Natural Area (John Bjerke) (8-11 am)
F: Saturday, November 5: Huntley Meadows, VA (Mike Bowen) (8-11 am)
G: Sunday, November 13:  Hughes Hollow, MD (John Bjerke) (8-11 am)

Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire series $134/$190

Our fall birding series visits seven protected areas, all under an hour’s drive from D.C., where a variety of habitats — including field, forest, and wetland — provide good opportunities for the observation and identification of birds in autumn. On the earliest walks, we’ll hope to catch some southbound migrants. As the season progresses, we’ll watch for sparrows, raptors, waterfowl, and other birds. These teaching walks are aimed at beginning to mid-level birders, but all are welcome. Most of our explorations will be on natural surface trails that may be uneven or muddy.  

Black and yellow garden spiderLate Summer Meadow
Sunday, September 11 (12:30-5 pm)
Leaders Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Join two naturalists for a closer look at the web of life in both wet and dry meadows at Little Bennett Regional Park in upper Montgomery County, MD. We’ll search for the wildlife that finds food and shelter amidst the late-blooming, sun-loving wildflowers and fruiting grasses, including butterflies and other late season insects, birds, and reptiles and amphibians. 

Fall Flight at Cromwell Valley Park
Saturday, September 17 (3/4 day field trip)
Leaders: Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Bring along a folding chair and cross your fingers for a good day of raptor flight at this hawk watch in Baltimore County, just outside the northern side of the Baltimore Beltway. Our trip is scheduled close to peak for the southward passage of Broad-wing Hawks in massive numbers. Of course, we can’t control weather conditions or migratory pulses, but our leaders will do their best to give you a productive day of birding. That will include exploring some of Cromwell Valley Park’s trails for fall migrant songbirds, and perhaps even heading out to other close-by locations in the afternoon if the hawk flight is slow. 

Midweek Meanders Along the CanalWidewater Lock 15 C and O Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
B: September 28 - Riley’s Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
D: October 19 - Pennyfield Lock FULL - REGSITER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
F: November 30 - Violettes Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $96/$134
Enjoy one or all of these leisurely autumn walks along portions of the C&O Canal that enjoy less traffic than the towpath stretches close to Washington. 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 C&O Canal. We’ll proceed at a “naturalist’s shuffle” pace, stopping often to observe birds, fall wildflowers and foliage, butterflies, snakes, turtles — and whatever else we might find. Participants interested in carpooling will meet at Woodend. 

Bat Chat
Thursday, September 15 (7:30-9 pm)
Leader: Fred Seitz
Free, but registration required.
Come and explore the natural history and conservation concerns of the bats of our region with this program at our Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, MD. We will learn about the habits and habitats of these fascinating mammals through a slide lecture. We’ll also head out onto the sanctuary grounds for a short search for bats in the evening sky. Our leader is a Master Naturalist Volunteer with a particular passion for these flying mammals. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk flyingOn the Move at Cape May  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Monday, September 19 (9 am) to
Tuesday, September 20 (4 pm)
Leader: Mark Garland
Members $100; nonmembers $140
Cape May, at New Jersey’s southern tip, is known around the world as a great concentration point for southbound migrants. Staggering numbers of birds pass through Cape May when the winds come from the northwest after an autumn cold front. A great mix of habitats means there’s always lots to see here, even when the winds don’t bring the big migratory push. Late September is a peak time for migrating falcons, accipiters, warblers, and monarch butterflies. We plan to visit Cape May Point State Park, the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, and other natural areas around Cape May. Overnight options include a variety of motels, hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds in or near Cape May. 

Georgetown Geology Loop Hike
Saturday, September 24 (9 am-1 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
The Georgetown section of Washington, DC sits squarely on a mass of ancient granite, surrounded by various other types and ages of rock. Our hike will be about 5 miles long, through wooded parkland and along city streets. The terrain is easy to moderate, with hills being the biggest challenge. During our hike, we will visit the Coastal Plain, three canyons, the Piedmont upland, and a major fault zone. Not bad for a walk around town. (Note: this hike will move at a faster pace than our usual naturalists’ shuffle.)

Fall Botany at Gunpowder Falls State Park
Sunday, September 25 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader: Dwight Johnson
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Our leader describes the Hereford Area of Gunpowder Falls SP in Central Baltimore County as “the best walk in the Maryland piedmont.” Join him on this 2-mile walk through rich upland and bottomland woods where we’ll make frequent stops to ID and admire trees and shrubs, ferns, fall fruits, and late-blooming wildflowers.  


PurpleGerardiaLate Season Wildflowers
Saturday, October 1 (8:30 am-Noon)
Leader: Sujata Roy
Members $24; nonmembers $34
We’re returning to the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA, to search for the last blooms of the season in the rich marsh habitats there. Plants will be our primary focus, we’ll also keep our eyes and ears open for wildlife, including still-active turtles, frogs, butterflies, and other wildlife. Flat walking conditions predominate, but forest trails may be muddy.

Window into the World of Fungi|
Thursday, October 6 (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.

Fall Flora Fridays
Fridays (10 am-12:30 pm)
A: Friday, October 7: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, VA (Leader: Liz Jones)
B: Friday, October 21: Blockhouse Point, MD (Leader: Marney Bruce)
C: Friday, November 4: Little Bennett Park, MD (Leaders: Marney Bruce and Liz Jones)
Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $54/76
On Fall Flora Fridays, we’ll enjoy the area’s rich diversity of plant life during this season of lingering blooms, developing fruits, and changing color. Join us for one or more of these visits to nearby natural areas. Although aimed at beginning to mid-level plant enthusiasts, all are welcome. Walks A and B include uphill/downhill hiking in upland and bottomland woods for a total of 1.5-2 miles on natural surface trails. Walk B will also include a stream crossing, but there will be helping hands to manage it. Walk C traverses level ground.  

Geese at KenilworthFall in the Parks
Section A: Saturday, October 8—Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, MD (10 am-2:30 pm)|
Section B: Sunday, October 23—Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, DC (8:30 am-1 pm)
Section C: Saturday, November 5—Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, VA (8:30 am-1 pm)
Leaders: Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar
Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire series $66/90
Our Senior Naturalist leads these broad-based nature explorations of nearby parks rich in natural history. We’ll walk up to 3 miles, on possibly muddy surfaces, as we enjoy changing fall colors, late season blooms, migrant birds and butterflies, and all manner of wildlife. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary in Calvert County is considered the northwestern-most bald cypress swamp in the US. Here, piney woods and farm fields surround the 100-acre swamp, accessed by a boardwalk trail. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Park, on the banks of the Anacostia River, harbors a variety of plant and animal life in its swamp, marsh and woodland habitats within sight of urban sprawl. An exploration of the Coastal plain woods and wetlands of Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Woodbridge will conclude our series. 

Introduction to Tree Identification
Friday, October 14 (10 am-3 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Fall is a great time to learn to identify our local trees and shrubs. With brilliant leaves highlighting the twigs, new buds already formed, and many fruits hanging on, there are lots of distinguishing features that help sort out the various species. This program at our Woodend Sanctuary will begin indoors with a look at some techniques of tree identification, coupled with practice using a simple key. We’ll then move outdoors to use our new skills to identify many of the trees growing on the grounds. Both beginners and those who want to brush up on their ID skills are welcome. 

Fall on the Appalachian Trail
Sunday, October 16 (full-day hike)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $34; nonmembers $46
One of the best ways to explore the seasonal richness of our region is to take a trek along the Appalachian Trail. We’ll hike about 6 miles in the fall woods on Maryland’s South Mountain, covering the stretch from Gath land State Park, the former estate of a Civil War correspondent, to Fox Gap, an area of heavy fighting in the Battle of South Mountain. We’ll stop to enjoy fall plant displays, as well as animal activity, but we will keep a pace necessary to cover the distance stated. Our hike should be considered moderately strenuous to strenuous, with both uphill and downhill hiking over rocky and uneven terrain.  

ChickenOfTheWoods2Fall Fungus Walk
Saturday, October 22 (9 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Tovi Lehmann
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Fall is a great time to get introduced to the most common families of fungi in our area and find out more about their natural history and many ecological functions. We’ll visit Brookside Park in Montgomery County, where the natural surface trails will include some uphill and downhill walking. Note: the focus of our field trip is fungi’s important and under-appreciated role in forest ecology, not the edibility of particular species of mushrooms. 

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Fall Walk: Tuesday, October 25 (10 am-Noon) NOTE DATE CHANGE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $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.

The Natural and Cultural History of the Ag Reserve
Wednesday, October 26 (10 am-4 pm)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley & Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Thirty-four years ago, with regional farmland rapidly diminishing, Montgomery County had the foresight to set aside more than 90,000 acres of farms and open space in the western and northern third of the county as an “Agricultural Reserve.” Come explore this scenic, biologically diverse area and learn how it contributes to clean air and water, the availability of fresh local produce, and the overall quality of life for residents of the metro area. Our trip will visit a working CSA farm, a fall produce and pumpkin stand, an historical site, and perhaps an artist’s studio, time permitting, to experience the rich diversity of plants and wildlife (and human livelihoods) that thrive in the Reserve’s fields, meadows, wetlands, and rocky woodlands. We’ll begin and end the tour in some of the beautiful parkland along its borders: Seneca Creek State Park and Dickerson Conservation Park, site of an American sycamore, officially the largest known tree in MD. 

Late Fall at Cape May  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINENorthernGannet
Saturday, October 29 (8 am) – Sunday, October 30 (5 pm)
Leader: Mark Garland
Members $100; nonmembers $140
Cape May is one of the premier spots in North America to see concentrations of southbound birds during the fall migration. October’s end typically brings the year’s largest concentrations of coastal waterbirds, including scoters, cormorants, and gannets, along with temperate songbird migrants -- those species whose migrations stop before reaching the tropics. When the weather conditions are right in late fall, there can be many thousands of sparrows, blackbirds, American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Gray Catbirds, kinglets, and others. This is also a time when rare birds show up in Cape May. Some owls are migrating too, and we may have a chance to visit researchers working at night to band them.  

A Year at Boundary Bridge
Saturdays (9 am-2 pm)
Section D: October 29
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Each walk members $30; nonmembers $42
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.

Raptors on the Move at Waggoner’s Gap
Saturday, October 29 (3/4 day field trip)
Leaders: Liam McGranaghan and Laura McGranaghan
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Fall brings thousands of migrating raptors—hawks, falcons, eagles, and their allies—to the Appalachian ridges and Atlantic coast. Our field trip goes to one of the premier hawk-watching sites in the area: Pennsylvania’s Waggoner’s Gap, about a 2.5-hour drive from DC. Our experienced leaders, known for their raptor expertise, will help you develop your own ID skills for these birds-on-the-move. Getting to the hawk watch lookout requires walking up a short, but rocky, trail to an outcropping of perched boulders.  

Pin Oak foliage during autumnFall Tree ID for Birders  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Sunday, October 30 (2:30-4 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Free, but registration required.
With trees ablaze in fall colors and their fruits hanging high, we’ll learn the identifying characteristics visible through binoculars of the most common species of trees and shrubs along the C&O Canal towpath upstream of Carderock. 

Geology of the Gettysburg Battlefield
Sunday, October 30 (10 am-3pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Although geology in 1863 was an immature science and military geology had not yet been invented, the terrain of southern Pennsylvania directly influenced the strategies and actions of the Union and Confederate armies in their climactic clash at Gettysburg. We will tour the battlefield by car and on foot, visiting a number of sites that reveal the geologic processes and materials that created the landscape. In addition, we will discuss several of the regional topographic features that funneled the two armies to their meeting place. We will do several short and relatively easy circuit hikes, totaling a couple of miles in both open and wooded terrain. The ground will vary from dusty or muddy to rocky, and from level to relatively steep. Note: The pace on our geology hikes is faster than the usual naturalists’ shuffle. 


TulipTreeInFallBotanical Gems in Montgomery County: Black Hill Regional Park
Sunday, November 6 (9 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Carole Bergmann
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Designated one of Montgomery Parks Best Natural Areas, Black Hill Regional Park near Boyds offers plant enthusiasts a number of special habitats to explore. The county’s forest ecologist will lead us on a loop hike (between 2-3 miles) to visit some of these, such as: lakeside; early succession meadows; high-quality, chestnut oak-dominated forests; mixed oak forests; and tulip tree-dominated forests. We’ll ID plants along the way, focusing on their seasonal aspects and ecological niches. 

Knock, Knock
Saturday, November 19 (9-11:30 am)
Leaders: Pam and Chris Oves
Free, but registration required.
On this approximately 4-mile roundtrip bird walk along the Canal’s towpath at Riley’s Lock, we’ll work to see or at least hear all 7 species of woodpeckers (a grand-slam!) that frequent our woods this time of year. Our walk is aimed at beginning birders, but all are welcome.


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