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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  


BikingOnCanalSpring on Wheels Along the Potomac SORRY CANCELLED/RESCHEDULED
Friday, May 6 (8:30 am-3 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Spring has sprung and the towpath along the Potomac River is one of the finest places in the DC-metro area to experience the season’s richness. In order to cover more territory and visit more habitats, we’ll use bikes to explore the stretch from Swain’s Lock to Riley’s Lock, a 12.3 mile round-trip ride. We’ll dismount often to look for spring wildflowers, butterflies and other insects, and reptiles and amphibians, all the while keeping an eye and ear open for spring migrants and other breeding bird activity. Bring your own bike.

Appalachian Spring 1 SPOT LEFT
Sunday, May 8 (8:30 am-3 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Spring rains, warming temperatures, and longer hours of daylight ignite a great burst of life in the valleys and ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Thompson Wildlife Management Area in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Linden, VA, a wildlife reserve that is well known for its botanical diversity. Our field trip will focus on the rich wildflower display, as well as spring migrants, butterflies, and other wildlife. We’ll cover around 3 miles at a leisurely pace, but there will be uphill and downhill walking on rocks and uneven trails.

Scarlet TanagerSpringtime in West Virginia
Monday, May 9 (8 am)-Tuesday, May 10 (4 pm)
Leader: Mark Garland
Members $115; nonmembers $160
Enjoy early spring all over again by heading upward in elevation to the Appalachian peaks and hollows  of West Virginia. On this broad-based nature foray, highlights will include migrant songbirds, spring wildflowers, early season butterflies, and perhaps a salamander or two. We'll take modest hikes of a mile or two in different habitats each morning and afternoon. Our explorations are based in the Canaan Valley area, but depending on the weather we may also visit Dolly Sods, Seneca Rocks, and/or Blackwater Falls. Overnight options range from campgrounds and basic cabins to motels and park lodges.

Spring Saunters Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
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.

Spring Flora Along the River 
Friday, May 13 (10 am-12:30 pm): Violette’s Lock, MD
Leaders: Marney Bruce and Liz Jones

Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
The display of spring wildflowers in the Washington area is especially rich in the varied habitats along the Potomac River. The variety of trees, shrubs and ferns is bountiful in these areas, as well.  Join us for one of more of these visits to nearby natural areas to observe and enjoy all manner of plant life. Walk A includes uphill/downhill hiking in upland woods for a total of 1.5-2 miles. Our second walk explores floodplain habitat on mostly flat, but likely muddy ground. All of the final walk, along the Canal towpath, will be level.

Spring in the Parks
Saturdays (8 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
C: May 14 - National Arboretum, DC
Members $24; nonmembers $34
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.

Spring Woods of Prince William Forest Park SORRY - CANCELLED
Saturday, May 14 (9 am-12:30pm)
Leader: Elizabeth Rives
Members $24; nonmembers $34
With 15,000 acres of forest, Prince William Forest Park protects the largest Piedmont forest in the National Park Service and the largest green space in the DC-metro area. Here plants at their northern-and-southernmost limits meet and overlap, as do species from both Coastal Plain and Piedmont. The leader who has led winter visits here returns for a spring walk to look for seasonal wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Mountain Laurel may be in bloom along our 2-3 mile hike over sloping terrain on natural surface trails. Bring along a bag lunch to enjoy with the leader after the walk. Note: $5 per car entrance fee. Carpooling will be encouraged and facilitated.

Aud Pier SignsWoodend Master Plan Walks
E: Saturday, May 21 (9-11 am) CANCELLED/POSTPONED
F: Wednesday, June 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.

Spring Early Birds (7-10 am)
Saturday, May 21 – Riley’s Lock, MD (Leader: John Bjerke) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Members $24; nonmembers $34
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.

Introduction to Bird ID by Voice FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Tuesday, May 24 (7:30-9 pm)
Thursday, May 26 (7:30-9 pm)
Saturday, May 28 (7 am-Noon)
Leader: Mark England
Members $46; nonmembers $64
The sounds made by birds can help find and identify many species, yet to beginning birders, the wide variety of sounds can be confusing. If you know many of our area birds by sight but not by sound, this class is for you. Two evening sessions will use recordings and slides to study bird songs and calls. Our field trip to one or more sites in Montgomery County will give us a chance to listen for and try to learn some of the local species.

Spring Hike on Sugarloaf Mountain FULL
Wednesday, May 25 (10 am-3 pm)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Tina Thieme Brown
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Join Sugarloaf author Melanie Choukas-Bradley and artist Tina Thieme Brown for an outing devoted to the botany, wildlife, geology, and history of Sugarloaf Mountain, a monadnock in the rural Piedmont northwest of Washington, D.C. The 1.5-2.5 mile hike, with some uphill and downhill on rocky terrain, is timed to coincide with the flowering of many woodland plants, including mountain laurel, pinxter, fringe-tree, Canada mayflower, several violet species, and possibly one or more orchids. Bring binoculars to look for Wood Thrushes, Worm-eating Warblers, Ravens, and other bird species. Tina will give a brief demonstration on illustrating plants in the field during our lunch break. Melanie will introduce the concept of forest bathing. Trails will be uneven and rocky with some uphill/downhill.


VirginiaRailNatural Heritage Series: Elliott Island FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Saturday, June 4 (2:30-11 pm)
Leaders: Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $34; nonmembers $46
Extensive wetlands border the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the marshes near Vienna, MD are diverse, well-studied, and accessible. Hal Wierenga, who has conducted the state’s Black Rail study, leads this exploration of the natural history and management of the Elliott Island marsh ecosystem. We’ll identify marsh plants and search for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. We’ll also discuss the effects of human activities on the marsh environment. Our foray continues into the night, when we’ll listen for rails, frogs, owls, and Chuck-will’s-widows. Note: our group will meet in Cambridge then carpool out to our field site.

Breeding Bird Walk at McKee-Beshers  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Sunday, June 5 (7-11 am)
Leader: John Bjerke
Members $24; nonmembers $33
Breeding birds are excellent environmental indicators, and breeding bird surveys generate important data for monitoring the health of ecosystems. At the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area near Poolesville, MD, we will walk fields and woods to search out some common and uncommon breeders of our area. We will discuss the breeding strategies of species such as Common Yellowthroat Warbler, Song Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Orchard Oriole, among others, as well as the types of census techniques that ornithologists and citizen scientists use to determine population levels and trends. We’ll walk around two miles at a leisurely pace on natural surface paths, which may be uneven and muddy. Our leader has participated in the Maryland/DC Breeding Bird Atlas Project.

Ebony Jewelwing damselflyAdvanced Odonate Studies: Common Damselflies of the Mid-Atlantic
Thursday, June 9 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Sunday, June 12 (3/4 field trip)
Leader: Richard Orr
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only: members $20; nonmembers $28
Feel like you’re ready to “graduate” from our annual Introduction to “Dragonfly and Damselfly” class led by dragonfly expert Richard Orr? Join us for this advanced class focusing on field identification of the common damselflies of the Mid-Atlantic region. Orr will combine an evening presentation with a field trip to Patuxent Research Center. This is the third of four classes that will cover field ID of all of the dragonfly and damselfly groups in the mid-Atlantic area. Look for “ID of Mature Larvae and Cast Skins of Stream/River Dragonflies” in 2017. Just getting started in dragonflies and damselflies? Our leader’s introductory class in August is for you.

A Year at Boundary Bridge
Saturdays (9 am-2 pm)

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.

Summer Shuffles Along the Canal
Wednesdays (9-11:30 am)
Section A: June 15 - Riley’s Lock
Section B: June 29 - Widewater
Section C: July 6 - Carderock
Section D: July 20 - Swain’s Lock
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $72/$100
Summer’s here and it may be hot, so we’ll keep our pace to a shuffle as we visit four areas along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. We’ll stop often to observe birds, wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, snakes, and whatever else we may find underfoot or overhead. Carpooling will be available from Woodend.

Zebra SwallowtailButterflies of Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge
Saturday, June 18 (full day field trip)
Leaders: Dick Smith and Stephanie Mason
Members $34; nonmembers $46
Join a butterfly expert and our Senior Naturalist on a search for early summer butterflies at Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge, situated near the mouth of the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay. We’ll explore up to a couple of miles in generally open and sunny terrain as we explore the meadow, woodland, and beach habitats of this natural area. We’ll hope to spot and ID a wide variety of species, all the while discussing their life histories and host plant relationships.

Fern Basics
Sunday, June 19 (9 am-Noon)
Leader: Kit Sheffield
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Walk the moderate trails of Riverbend Park, home to at least fifteen fern species, with a naturalist who knows this area well. We’ll ID what we find, and along the way learn what it is that makes a plant a fern, plus the common characteristics you can use to identify ferns on your own. Note: there will be some uphill/downhill on this hike of several miles.

SwampRoseEarly Summer Wildflowers
Saturday, June 25 (8:30-Noon)
Leader: Sujata Roy
Members $24; nonmembers $34Follow a naturalist along the boardwalk of the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA, in a search for the early blooms of summer in the rich marsh habitats there. While plants will be our focus, we’ll also keep our eyes and ears open for wildlife, including turtles, frogs, birds, and butterflies. Flat walking conditions, but most of the time will be spent in open, sunny areas.

Western Montgomery County Butterfly Count
Saturday, June 25
Join us for the 28th annual Western Montgomery County Butterfly Count. Participants in this citizen science project will be sent into the field in teams to count butterfly species in a given area. No experience is necessary. This mid-summer count, modeled after the Christmas Bird Counts, is organized by ANS and sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association and Xerces Society. Email Stephanie Mason at stephanie.mason@anshome.org for a participant’s information letter.

Great Falls Park - VirginiaGeology at Great Falls, MD
Sunday, June 26 (8-11 am)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $20; nonmembers $28
People in our region find Great Falls both fascinating and perplexing. Arguably our most dramatic landscape feature, its origin and development remain obscure to many. We will take a short and easy walk from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center to the falls overlook, a round trip of about a mile. During the walk, we will discuss how the bedrock of the Great Falls area formed in tectonic collisions hundreds of millions of years ago and how the waxing and waning of the continental glacier led to the much more recent creation of the falls. There should even be time to examine the flora and birdlife along our path.

Six-legged Songsters of Summer
Thursday, June 30 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Leader: Cathy Stragar
Free, but registration is required.
Sticky summer has arrived, and the songs of insects such as cicadas, crickets, and katydids begin to swell into a noisy and riotous chorus. Join naturalist Cathy Stragar at our Woodend Sanctuary for a slide introduction to the most common of these songsters: who they are, why they sing, and how they make their amazing sounds. She’ll also describe how to get involved with the fourth annual Cricket Crawl citizen science activity in late August.


BlueDasherDragonFlySummer in the Parks (8-11:30 am)
Section A: Saturday, July 2-Piscataway Park, MD
Section B: Tuesday, July 19-Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, DC
Section C: Saturday, July 23-Occoquan Bay Natl. Wildlife Refuge, VA
Leaders: Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar
Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire series $65/91
Join two naturalists to explore the summer richness of parks in the Potomac Watershed.  As summer arrives and progresses into its muggy days and nights, wetlands and meadows soak up the sun and come alive with plant and wildlife activity. We’ll explore these habitats with walks of up to 2-3 miles in search of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians, and summer plant life—all at a slow summer’s pace.

The Summer Side of Blue Mountain
Sunday, July 3 (full-day hike)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members: $34; Nonmembers: $46
Although the Thompson Wildlife Management Area on Blue Mountain near Linden, VA is renowned for its spring display of wildflowers, its rich woodlands can be just as interesting to explore in the summer. While others head to the beach this holiday weekend, we’ll enjoy mountain blooms and the butterflies they attract, search for salamanders under logs, and keep an eye out and ear open for birds which nest here, including Scarlet Tanager, and Hooded and Cerulean Warblers. We’ll cover 3-4 miles at a leisurely pace, but there will be uphill and downhill walking on rocky and uneven trails. 

240px-maidenhair fernBotanical Gems of Montgomery County: Rachel Carson Park
Sunday, July 10 (9 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Carole Bergmann
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Rachel Carson Park protects a variety of natural communities, including oak-hickory woodlands, mountain laurel thickets, rocky outcroppings, and Hawlings River bottomlands. Under the guidance of the County’s forest ecologist, we’ll explore these communities identifying trees, ferns, and summer wildflowers along the way. On this 2-3 mile walk, expect some uphill/downhill walking over terrain that may be uneven, rocky and/or muddy.

Bees in the Backyard
Sunday, July 24 (9:30 am-Noon)
Leader: Nate Erwin
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Discover the diversity of native bees and other pollinators right outside your doorstep and in your garden. Join our leader in his home garden in Alexandria, VA and in surrounding natural areas for a look at what’s helping produce many of the seeds and fruits in your neighborhood. Nate Erwin is an entomologist working on collections at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

GrayhairstreakButterfly Basics at Black Hill Park
Sunday, July 24 (9-11:30 am)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28
On this slow stroll through several habitats at Black Hill Regional Park, near Boyds, MD, we’ll offer an introduction to some of the butterflies of summer: their habitats, how to identify them, and where to look for their caterpillars and host plants. Our areas of exploration will be open and sunny.

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Summer Walk: Wednesday, July 27 (10 am-Noon) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Fall Walk: Wednesday, October 26 (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.

The Natural History of Caterpillars
Thursday, July 28 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, July 30 (9 am-3 pm)
Leader: Nate Erwin
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only $20/$28
Here’s a chance to learn about caterpillars’ many forms and their fascinating life histories, including defense strategies. We’ll find and identify local caterpillars and discuss their host plant associations. With entomologist Nate Erwin, we’ll combine an evening presentation at Woodend with field exploration at a nearby natural area.


CardinalFlowerMorning Paddle on the Potomac
Saturday, August 6 (9-11 am)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Sujata Roy
Members $20; nonmembers $28 (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.


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