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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 


Botanical Gems in Montgomery County: Travilah Barrens  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE 
Sunday, November 1 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader: Rob Gibbs
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Visit the Travilah Serpentine Barrens in Montgomery County under the guidance of the county’s forest ecologist. With dry, shallow soils and high levels of certain minerals, the somewhat-stunted vegetation is dominated by oaks, pines, and grassy glades, which support many rare and uncommon species. Differing from the prairie-like serpentine barrens at Soldier’s Delight near Baltimore, the Travilah site is Maryland’s largest, best remaining example of an old-age, forested serpentinite community. Limited to 12 participants.

Fall Flora along the C&O Canal
Friday, November 6 (10 am-12:30 pm) Violettes Lock
Leaders: Marney Bruce and Barb Nash
Members $20; nonmembers $28
On these leisurely walks along the Potomac River’s C&O Canal, we’ll enjoy the area’s rich diversity of plant life during this season of lingering blooms, developing fruits, and changing color. Trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and ferns will be IDed and studied in their different aspects.  These walks are aimed at beginning to mid-level plant enthusiasts, but all are welcome. 

AmericanRobinLate Fall at Cape May FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE

Saturday, November 7 (8 am) - Sunday, November 8 (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. Late fall 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. Owls are migrating too, and we’ll have a chance to visit researchers working at night to band owls. There may even be late-season butterflies, wildflowers, and frogs to see as well.


A Year at Boundary Bridge
Saturdays (9 am-2 pm)
Section D: November 7
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Each walk members $30; nonmembers $42
Join the author of A Year in Rock Creek Park—the Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, DC for our 9th year of hikes in one of D.C.’s most beautiful wild areas. Celebrating the park’s 125th birthday, 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. On our winter walk, an ideal time to admire the Park’s topography, we’ll look and listen for winter flocks and identify many species of woody plants. 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.


Fall Birding Series
Sunday, November 8: Hughes Hollow, MD (John Bjerke) (8-11 am) 1 SPOT LEFT
Members $24; nonmembers $34
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. Walks A & include some mild uphill and downhill.


witch hazelFall Hike on Sugarloaf Mountain  FULL- REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE

Wednesday, November 11 (10 am-3 pm)

Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Tina Thieme Brown
Members $30; Nonmembers $42

The author and the illustrator of two books on Sugarloaf Mountain team up once again for a seasonal nature hike on our local monadnock. We’ll explore the preserve’s botany, wildlife, geology, and history while covering 2-2.5 miles. We’ll search for late-season wildflowers and the maturing fruits of oaks, hickories, black birch and other woody plants. Fall color should be lingering, and witch hazel just coming into bloom. Our ears will be open for the sounds of wildlife, including Ravens, Eastern Towhees, and active Chipmunks.  During lunch, Tina will offer pointers on drawing in the field. Our hike includes uphill/downhill walking over rocky trails  and a fairly steep ¼ mile hike up to the summit—all at a leisurely pace.

Preparing for Winter at Carderock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Sunday, November 15 (9:30 am-1:30 pm)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Elizabeth Rives
Members $24; nonmembers $34
In March, woody plant instructors Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Elizabeth Rives led our Budbreak at Carderock foray. In this hike, they’ll return to Carderock and the Billy Goat (B) Trail along the Potomac River to explore the woodlands as trees and shrubs let go of their last fall leaves, and reveal their mature fruits and next year’s buds in prep for winter dormancy. We’ll examine and compare the fruits of many species, including hornbeam, hophornbeam, oaks, hickories, black walnut, American beech, sycamore, bladdernut, spice-bush and other woody plants. We’ll get a jump on winter botany by looking closely at twigs, buds, and bark, using Elizabeth’s TSI (tree scene investigation) techniques. Our hike will cover 1.5-2 miles of the towpath and parts of Billy Goat B, mostly at a leisurely naturalist’s crawl. Some stretches, however, will be rocky, moderately steep, and possibly muddy. 

Midweek Meanders Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
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.

WhiteThroatedSparrowBird ID Series: Sparrows and Finches FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Thursday, November 19 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, November 21 (half-day field trip)
Leader: Mike Bowen
Members $42; nonmembers $58
Lecture only: members $20; nonmembers $28
Sparrows and finches offer beginning and intermediate birders some of their most difficult ID challenges. On Thursday evening, our leader will use an illustrated lecture to provide identification help on these often confusing species. Our field trip will take us to one or more nearby natural areas where a variety of these birds can be studied. 

Tall Ships and Dinosaurs Geology Hike
Saturday, November 21 (12-5 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Due to a paucity of rocks, we tend to avoid the Coastal Plain for our Geology forays. Nevertheless, many interesting, non-rocky sites lie close at hand. We’ll visit three of them on a 40-mile auto circuit through northwestern PrinceGeorgesCounty. Our starting point: Bladensburg Waterfront Park, where we will consider how a deep-water port prominent in the War of 1812 has so completely faded from commerce. Next we’ll travel to Watkins Regional Park to examine the Atlantic’s sandy floor of 60 million years ago. If we’re lucky, we may find a trail-side shark’s tooth or oyster shell. Our last stop visits Dinosaur Park, near Laurel, where paleontologists have unearthed the 110-million-year old bones of several kinds of dinosaurs and mammals, as well as fossils of trees and early flowering plants. We’ll return to Bladensburg to complete the loop. Our walking over paved or gravelly paths will be in generally flat terrain. 

Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge  1 SPOT LEFT
Sunday, November 22 (full-day field trip)
Leaders Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $34; nonmembers $46
Late fall signals the arrival of thousands of ducks and geese in the mid-Atlantic region. Join us on a visit to Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge, near Chestertown, MD, to search for waterfowl in the wetland habitats of this island, situated near the mouth of the ChesterRiver and the Chesapeake Bay. Eastern Neck NWR has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area for Tundra Swans. More than 2,000 swans spend the early part of winter at the refuge before moving farther south to wintering grounds in North Carolina. Others stay at the refuge throughout the winter, along with an estimated 35,000 waterfowl of other species. In addition to our search for migrant waterfowl, we’ll look for raptors, sparrows, and other seasonal birds.


BuffleheadWinter Birding at Black Hill
Section A: Saturday, December 5 (8:30-11 am)  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section B: Sunday, January 10 (8:30-11 am)
Section C: Saturday, February 6 (8:30-11 am)
Section D: Sunday, March 6 (8:30-11 am)
Leader:  Mark England

 Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $72/$104
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 Huntley Meadows
Sunday, December 6 (1-4pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Huntley Meadows is a large nature preserve located in Fairfax County not far from Mount Vernon. The preserve is situated in Hybla Valley, a wide swath of flat, low-lying land that was carved by an ancient meander of the Potomac. Huntley Meadows is an excellent site for examining the geologic materials and processes that built our Atlantic Coastal Plain. We will start at an overlook with a view across the whole of Hybla Valley and then drive around the preserve to its headquarters. From the main parking area, we will walk a two-mile loop on easy trails that include a lengthy section of boardwalk across open and sunny marshland. 

220px-Northern Hen HarrierBirding Hotspots in Loudoun County
Sunday, December 6 (8 am-4 pm)
Leaders: Joe Coleman and Laura McGranaghan
Members (ANS & LWC) $34; nonmembers $46
Join two of Loudoun County’s top birders on a daylong search for sparrows, hawks, waterfowl, and other seasonal birds at some of this County’s richest birding destinations. The group will meet at in Leesburg, then move on to several locations before ending the day in the Lucketts area. Possible locations, depending on what species have been recently sighted, include: Beaverdam Reservoir, Banshee Reeks, the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, and the Dulles Wetlands. All levels of birders are welcome. Co-sponsored with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC). 

Winter Weeds
Friday, December 11 (12:30-3 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members: $20; nonmembers $28
Not all herbaceous plants disappear in the winter. Many persist as dried stalks and seed clusters, with a beauty to match the season. Join ANS Senior Naturalist Stephanie Mason for an indoor/outdoor introduction to winter weed and wildflower identification at our Woodend Sanctuary. We’ll also investigate seed dispersal strategies and examine plant skeletons for signs of summer insect activity, such as insect galls, chrysalids, cocoons, and egg cases.


redfoxinsnowWinter Hikes Along the Potomac River
A: Saturday, January 2 (full day hike) - Monocacy Aqueduct to Point of Rocks, MD (5.6 mi)
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. 

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Winter Walk: Wednesday, January 6 (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.

orionIntroduction to the Winter Night Sky
Thursday, January 7 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Leader: Richard Orr
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Can you spot Orion the hunter rising up just over the treetops? This alone is a sure sign that winter has come once again to the northern hemisphere. Being able to read the sky in winter can give you a unique sense of cosmological wonder since most of the brighter stars are, in fact, winter stars. While our leader is best-known for his expertise in dragonflies, he’ll share his equally strong knowledge of astronomy in an indoor/outdoor presentation at our Woodend Sanctuary. We’ll be introduced to sky guideposts and the dozen or so “winter” constellations, before bundling up to head outside to look for some of these wondrous celestial sights through a telescope. 

Introduction to the Identification of Gulls
Thursday, January 7 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, January 9 (3/4 day field trip)
Leader: Paul Pisano
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only: members $20; nonmembers $28
The variable plumages of gulls frustrate many observers, yet their behavior often allows careful and studied observation. This foray, designed for beginning and mid-level birders, will study the gulls that most commonly occur in the mid-Atlantic region. Thursday’s lecture will use slides to teach subadult and adult plumages, while Saturday’s field trip by carpool will take us to locations in DC and Virginia where the birds can be studied at length.

Winter Walks Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section A: January 13 - Carderock
Section B: January 27 - Widewater
Section C: February 17 - Swain’s Lock
Section D: March 2 - Great Falls
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. 

barn owlNatural History of Owls
Thursday, January 14 (7-9:30 pm)
Leader: Paul Engman
Free, but registration required.
Local owl populations swell during the winter as resident species are joined by northern migrants. Looking for owls and understanding their specialized adaptations is an exciting winter activity. This illustrated slide lecture at our Woodend Sanctuary will cover field identification techniques, basic adaptations and natural history of owls, as well as tips on where and how to find owls in the field. 

Winter Waterfowl Prowl in Northern Virginia
Saturday, January 16 (8 am-12:30 pm)
Leader: Mike Bowen
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Early in the year is the best time to search for and learn to ID overwintering waterfowl in our area. Basing our search in wetlands and waterways near Alexandria, VA, we’ll visit Roach’s run near National Airport, before heading down and along the Potomac River to the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. Our final destination is nearby Huntley Meadows Park, where a large, protected tract of forest and marsh sits amidst residential and commercial neighborhoods. Our focus will be waterfowl, but we’ll keep an eye open for all birdlife. 

Woodend Master Plan Walks

A: Tuesday, January 19 (10-11 am)
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. 

Shrubby Sunburst LichenIntroduction to the Natural History of Lichens
Thursday, January 21 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, January 23 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader: Dr. Paula DePriest
Members $42; nonmembers $58
Lecture only: members $20; nonmembers $28
Winter is the perfect season to search for the varied hues and forms of lichens, the fascinating and mysterious inhabitants of unpolluted ecosystems. On Thursday night, Dr. Paula DePriest of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, will introduce us to the natural history of lichens through an illustrated lecture. Saturday’s field trip to the Widewater area along the C&O Canal will give participants a chance to study and identify lichens in their natural environment. 

Winter Tree ID for Birders
Saturday, January 23 (2-4 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Free, but registration required.
We’re reprising this popular field trip to help birders learn to recognize the field marks of many common trees through their binoculars. The outdoor classroom will be Scott’s Run Nature Preserve near McLean, VA, where we’ll ID trees in their winter aspect, all the while keeping our eyes and ears open for birds moving amongst them. 

Short-eared OwlWinter Birding at Oaks Landfill

A: Sunday, January 24 (3-5:30 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. 

Comets and Meteors - and their Influence on the Natural History of the Earth
Thursdays (7:30-9:30 pm)
A: January 28
B: February 25
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. 

Dorchester County Waterfront

Sunday, January 31 (full-day field trip)
Leaders: Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $34; nonmembers $46

This trip got “weathered out” last year so here’s another opportunity to wrap yourself in layers, stuff your pockets full of chocolate, and enjoy the richness of winter birding along waterways of the mid-Atlantic. Our two leaders will take you to some of their favorite spots, beginning at the Choptank River in Cambridge, MD and progressing to the Chesapeake Bay off Hooper’s Island, with stops along the way. We’ll look for a variety of birds including gulls, waterfowl, marsh birds, and raptors. 


President’s Day Hike on the Canal: Swain’s Lock to Great Falls Loop

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.


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.


Night 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.



Early Spring in Cape May
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 Watch
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.

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.”

Window 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.

Late 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 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
Section B: April 13 - Widewater
Section C: April 27 - Swain’s Lock
Section D: May 11 - Riley’s Lock
Section E: May 25 - Violettes Lock
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 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.

Hawks 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.

Geology 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.

Evening 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.

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.

Spring 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!

The 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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