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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   


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.

Woodend Master Plan Walks
I: Saturday, October 1 (9-10 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. 

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.

Creek Critters at Webb Sanctuary  SORRY - CANCELLED

Saturday, October 8 (1:30-3:30 pm)
Leader: Gregg Trilling
Free, but registration required.
Join ANS as we search for critters living in the creek at Webb Sanctuary in Clifton, Virginia. We’ll use the Creek Critters app to identify macroinvertebrates and to create stream health reports. This is a great opportunity to search for critters we don’t find in degraded streams closer to Woodend Sanctuary. Children over 10 years old are welcome to participate with an adult.

Introduction to Tree Identification  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
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  FULL
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.  

Midweek Meanders Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
D: October 19 - Pennyfield Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
F: November 30 - Violettes Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
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.

Fall Flora Fridays
Fridays (10 am-12:30 pm)
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
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.

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. 

Fall in the Parks
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
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.

Fall Birding Series
E: Sunday, October 23: Patuxent River Park/Jug Bay Natural Area (John Bjerke) (8-11 am)
F: Saturday, November 5: Huntley Meadows, VA (Lisa Norwalk & Len Bisson) (8-11 am) 1 SPOT LEFT
G: Sunday, November 13:  Hughes Hollow, MD (John Bjerke) (8-11 am) FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Each walk 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.  

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Fall Walk: Tuesday, October 25 (10 am-Noon)
Winter Walk: Wednesday, January 18 (10 am-Noon)

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)
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. 

Art and Nature Journaling
Friday, November 11 (10 am- 2:30 pm)
Leader: Tina Thieme Brown
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Create an art journal page following a walk at our Woodend Sanctuary under the guidance of the artist of two Sugarloaf Mountain books and the Illustrated Agricultural Reserve Map. This can be a relaxing way to sit and record seasonal observations. We’ll spend some time outside looking closely at nature, and then gather indoors where we will share observations of several native tree specimens. Tina will demonstrate how to create a journal page using sketches and handwritten notes to describe a walk in the woods. After showing you her sketchbooks, introducing you to her favorite journaling art supplies and guiding you through a sketch, you will be on your way to creating seasonal impressions from your walks in nature and you will create an art journal page to take home with you. Our leader says the only experience required is a love for our native trees. An art supply list (approx. $20) will be provided with your confirmation letter.

Georgetown Geology Loop Hike
Saturday, November 12 (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 Hike on Sugarloaf MountainWitchHazel
Wednesday, November 16 (10 am-3 pm)
Leaders: Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Tina Thieme Brown
Members $30; Nonmembers $42
The author and the artist on two books about 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.

Bird ID Series: Waterfowl
Thursday, November 17 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Sunday, November 20 (3/4 day field trip)
Leader: Mike Bowen
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only $20/$28
Late fall signals the arrival of thousands of ducks and geese into the mid-Atlantic region. On Thursday evening, our leader will use an illustrated presentation to cover size, shape, plumages, habitat, and behaviors of the most common species in our area. On our field trip, we’ll visit several prime waterfowl areas, which will be chosen closer to the date of the workshop based on the pace of migration. This workshop is aimed at beginning and mid-level birders, but all are welcome.

Red-bellied WoodpeckerKnock, Knock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
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.


Chesapeake Wetlands
Sunday, November 20 (9:30 am-5:30 pm)
Leaders: Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $34; nonmembers $48
Discover the richness of autumn birding in the wetlands that line the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore with birders who know the area well. We’ll meet at the Blackwater Natural Wildlife Refuge, south of Cambridge, MD, about a 2-hour drive from Washington. After a leisurely visit to Blackwater, we’ll visit other wetlands in Dorchester and Talbot counties searching for migrant waterfowl, raptors, sparrows, and other seasonal birds.


250px-National Theatre - Washington DCBuilding Stones of Pennsylvania Avenue
Saturday, December 3 (1-4:30 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
The buildings and monuments along the Avenue of the Presidents are faced with a variety of granites, marbles, and sandstones. We will start at the Federal Triangle Metro station and walk about 3 miles, examining the exteriors of various structures between the White House and the Capitol. We will discuss the geology and place of origin of the building stones, as well as explore aspects of political, cultural, and economic history related to the choice and use of material. All portions of our route will be paved. The pace set and distance covered on this geology field trip will be faster and farther than our usual “naturalist’s shuffle.”

Winter Birding at Black Hill
Section A: Saturday, December 3 (8:30-11 am)
Section B: Sunday, January 8 (8:30-11 am)
Section C: Saturday, February 4 (8:30-11 am)
Section D: Sunday, March 5 (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.

Birding the Shenandoah Valley220px-Northern Hen Harrier
Sunday, December 4 (9 am-4 pm)
Leaders: Joe Coleman and Laura McGranaghan
Members (ANS & LWC) $34; nonmembers $48
Clarke County in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is rich with excellent birding areas. Join two seasoned birders on a daylong search for hawks, sparrows, waterfowl, and other seasonal birds in the northeastern section of the Valley. We’ll meet at the Snicker’s Gap Hawkwatch in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Loudoun/Clarke County border. From here we’ll move along the Shenandoah River, and visit the Virginia State Arboretum and Blandy Farm. We’ll wrap up the day with a return to Snicker’s Gap Hawkwatch to see what’s moving overhead. All levels of birders are welcome, and we will carpool/caravan from our meeting point to the return. Our field trip is cosponsored with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC).

Winter Birding Lecture Series
Thursdays (7-9 pm)
A. December 8 - Introduction to Winter Birding & Winter Bird Feeding
B. January 12 - How Birds Survive in the Wild in Winter
C. January 26 - Where Our Breeding Birds Go in the Winter
D. February 9 - Wintering Waterfowl and the Chesapeake Bay
Leader: Don Messersmith
Free, but registration required for each session.
World traveler, local ornithologist, and beloved instructor Don Messersmith has retired from the Natural History Field Studies program. But don’t fret. He’s still eager to share his knowledge, his experiences, and his sense of humor, so we’ve booked him for a lecture series on winter birding. Join him for one of more of these evenings at Woodend to learn more about winter bird ID and ecology.

Winter Weeds
Friday, December 9 (10 am-2:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
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.


Pileated WoodpeckerWinter Hikes in the Mountains
A: Saturday, January 7 (full day hike) - Sugarloaf Mountain, MD (4-5.5 mi)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
B: Sunday, February 5 (full day hike) -Thompson Wildlife Management Area, VA (4-5 mi)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Hike A: Members $34; nonmembers: $48
Hike B: Members $24; nonmembers: $34
Take on two of your New Year’s resolutions at once: spend more time exploring nature AND get more exercise by signing up for one or both of our hikes in the nearby mountains of our area.  We’ll search for over-wintering birds and other wildlife, while practicing our winter botany skills. Hike A covers our nearest monadnock, where we’ll scale the fairly steep ¼ mile trail to the summit (1,282 feet), then spend the rest of our time hiking the 5-mile loop Blue Trail. On Hike B, we’ll visit the rocky woods of Thompson Wildlife Management Area, best known for its spring display of trillium, where we’ll follow the Appalachian Trail for a stretch of our explorations. Note: These hikes are designed to offer a natural history experience for persons who want to move farther and faster than the pace of most ANS field trips. We will stop to observe natural phenomena, but will keep a pace necessary to cover the distance stated.  All of these hikes should be considered moderately strenuous, with both uphill and downhill hiking over rocky and uneven trails. Hike distance and exact location may be changed due to ground conditions and weather.

Winter Walks Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section A: January 11 - Carderock
Section B: January 25 - Widewater
Section C: February 8 - Swain’s Lock
Section D: March 8 - 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.

New Year’s Moonwalk
Full Moon
Saturday, January 14 (6:30-8:30 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Cross your fingers for clear skies as we celebrate the New Year with a brisk walk under the light of the year’s first full moon. We’ll head upriver on the C&O Canal towpath from Swain’s Lock, enjoying the shadows of arching sycamore trees and listening for the calls of owls and winter-active mammals. Distance covered will depend on the weather and conditions underfoot.

Winter Waterfowl Prowl
Sunday, January 15 (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 at wetlands and waterways relatively close-in to the metro area, we’ll visit sites in or near the District, Northern Virginia, or Montgomery County. Our exact locations will be determined closer to the date of the field trip, based on our leader’s scouting expeditions. While our focus will be waterfowl, we’ll keep an eye open for all birdlife. All levels of birders welcome.

Short-eared OwlWinter Birding at Oaks Landfill
A: Sunday, January 22 (3-5:30 pm)
B: Sunday, February 12 (3:30-6 pm)
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.

Introduction to the Winter Night Sky
Thursday, January 26 (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. Assuming skies are clear, we’ll bundle up to head outside and look for some of these wondrous celestial sights through a telescope.

Winter Tree ID for Birders
Saturday, January 28 (2:30-4 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.

American-Sycamore-Bark-WinterWalk Among the Giants
A. Saturday, January 28 (9 am-1 pm)
B. Saturday, April 15 (8 am-Noon)
C. Sunday, July 23 (8 am-Noon)
D. Sunday, Oct. 22 (8 am-Noon)
Walk among the giant Sycamores, Oaks, and River Birches on this new seasonal series of explorations along the Potomac River just upstream of Great Falls, MD. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for all manner of wildlife, and watch the winter woods turn green, and then summer sultry before fall colors herald the coming of another winter. Our floodplain trail, connecting with the Towpath, is mostly level, but could be muddy as we walk our loop of roughly 2.5 miles. 

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