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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 


DamselflyIntroduction to Dragonfly and Damselfly Studies
Thursday, August 6 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Sunday, August 9 (3/4 day field trip)
Leader:  Richard Orr
Members $46; nonmembers $64
Lecture only $20/$28
Grab your binoculars and prepare to set your sights not on birds — although “mosquito hawk” is a common moniker — but on those six-legged, aerial acrobats of wetland habitats: the dragonflies and damselflies. On Thursday evening, local entomologist and dragonfly expert Richard Orr will use slides and videos to discuss identification, biology, and behavior of the more common species of Odonates in our area. Our field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge near Bowie, MD, where our leader has conducted dragonfly studies, will give us a chance to test our identification skills.

Crickets Count! Citizen Science Activity
Friday, August 21 (after dark)
Be a part of the third annual DC/Baltimore Cricket Crawl. Participants will learn the songs of eight species of crickets and katydids, then spend a few minutes to listen for their songs and send in their observations.  For details on this citizen science project, which ANS is cosponsoring, check out this link: http://www.discoverlife.org/cricket/DC/. Rain date for the Cricket Count is August 22.


CardinalFlowerLate Summer Wings and Wildflowers
Sunday, September 6 (8 am-noon)
Leader:  Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
A park in upper Montgomery County, the Lois Green Conservation Area offers open meadows, pond and stream, and forested edges as an ideal spot for broad-based nature exploration. We’ll look for butterflies and other insects, migrant and resident birds, and other wildlife against the backdrop of late summer, sun-loving wildflowers and fruiting trees. We’ll walk several miles on natural trails with some uphill/downhill and a few short stretches of bushwhacking in tall vegetation, all at a leisurely pace.

Evening on the Canal
Friday, September 11 (6:45-8:45 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Join senior naturalist Stephanie Mason on a walk through the woods and along the Potomac River’s C&O Canal beginning at Swain’s Lock near Potomac, MD. As day gives way to dusk — and then to nightfall — we’ll look and listen for owls, foxes, bats, katydids, moths, and other nocturnal and crepuscular animals, discussing the adaptations of creatures whose “day” begins as ours ends.

Fall Birding Series
A: Saturday, September 12: Governor’s Bridge Natural Area, MD(Mark England) (7-10 am)
B. Sunday, September 20: Wheaton Regional Park, MD (Mike Bowen) (7-10 am)
C: Saturday, October 3: Huntley Meadows, VA (Mark England) (7:30-10:30 am)
D: Saturday, October 10: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, DC (John Bjerke) (7:30-10:30 am)  
E: Sunday, October 18: Sycamore Landing, MD (John Bjerke) (8-11  am)
F: Saturday, October 31: Occoquan Bay NWR, VA (Mike Bowen) (8-11  am)
G: Sunday, November 8: Hughes Hollow, MD (John Bjerke) (8-11  am)
Each walk members $24; nonmembers $34
Entire Series: $134/$201
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. 

ZebraSpiderSpiders 101
Saturday, September 12 (1-4:30 pm)
Leader: Cathy Stragar
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Spiders are ubiquitous creatures in our basements, meadows, and woodlots. While they inspire feelings of fear among many, they are a source of wonderment and mystery to the nature enthusiast. Join a naturalist for an introduction to the natural history and identification of spiders. On our field trip to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, near Poolesville, MD, we’ll search for spiders in a variety of habitats and discuss their life histories, feeding strategies, and adaptations. 

Geology of Riverbend Park
Sunday, September 13 (1-5 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Upstream from Great Falls, VA,  the less-frequented Riverbend Park offers scenic trails across Piedmont uplands and Potomac River bottomlands. The bedrock is schist of the Mather Gorge Formation, with some metagraywacke. We will hike a four-mile loop over level to rolling terrain, with a few rocky stretches and a good possibility of riverside mud. Trails will be easy to moderate, but with occasional steep slopes due to the 100-foot elevation difference between upland and floodplain. As we tour through the park, we will make numerous stops to discuss geological points of interest. Note: on our geology field trips, we move farther and faster than our usual naturalist’s shuffle.

ImmatureBroadWingedHawkFall Flight at Cromwell Valley Park
Sunday, September 13 (3/4 day field trip)
Leaders:  Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $30; nonmembers $42
Bring along a folding chair and cross your fingers for a good day of raptor flight at this hawk watch in Baltimore County, just outside the northern side of the Baltimore Beltway. Our trip is scheduled close to peak for the southward passage of Broad-wing Hawks in massive numbers. Of course, we can’t control weather conditions or migratory pulses, but our leaders will do their best to give you a productive day of birding. That will include exploring some of Cromwell Valley Park’s trails for fall migrant songbirds, and perhaps even heading out to other close-by locations in the afternoon if the hawk flight is slow.

Midweek Meanders Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
A: September 16 - Riley’s Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
C: October 14 - Violettes Lock FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
D: October 28 - Pennyfield Lock
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $96/$134
Enjoy one or all of these leisurely autumn walks along portions of the C&O Canal that enjoy less traffic than the towpath stretches close to Washington. The focus of our walks, each beginning from a different location, will be general natural history of the varied habitats along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. We’ll proceed at a “naturalist’s shuffle” pace, stopping often to observe birds, fall wildflowers and foliage, butterflies, snakes, turtles — and whatever else we might find. Participants interested in carpooling will meet at Woodend.

220px-Big brown batBat Chat
Thursday, September 17 (7:30-9 pm)
Leader:  Fred Seitz
Free, but registration required.
Come and explore the natural history and conservation concerns of the bats of our region with this program at our Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, MD. We will learn about the habits and habitats of these fascinating mammals through a slide lecture. We’ll also head out onto the sanctuary grounds for a short search for bats in the evening sky. Our leader is a Master Naturalist Volunteer with a particular passion for these flying mammals.

Confusing Composites
Saturday, September 19 (9 am-Noon)
Leader: Sujata Roy
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Most of our area’s late summer and fall-blooming wildflowers belong to the composite (Asteraceae) plant family.  With many local species of asters, goldenrods, sunflowers, bonesets and more, it can be intimidating even to begin to consider IDing them.  In this introductory field class, our leader will use both meadow and woodland at Little Bennett Park in Montgomery County, MD to explain the differences between the main groups of “confusing composites”, while offering tips on how to begin identifying them.

BuckeyeButterflyFall Butterflies of the Southern Patuxent
Saturday, September 19 (9:30 am-4 pm)
Leaders:  Dick Smith and Stephanie Mason
Members:  $30; nonmembers $42
While Monarch butterflies are heading south, many southern species are still expanding their range northward.  Butterfly expert Dick Smith and our Senior Naturalist will lead this search for butterflies on the move—Sleepy Orange, Buckeye, Cloudless Sulphur, Ocola Skipper—to name a few, as well as late-season resident species.  We’ll split our day between Jug Bay Natural Area, along the Patuxent River in Prince Georges County, and the Glendenning Preserve section of Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, situated across the river in Anne Arundel County.

Happy Birthday, Rock Creek Park
Wednesday, September 23 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader:  Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Members $26; nonmembers $36
Come celebrate the Fall Equinox, the 125th Anniversary of Rock Creek Park AND the 80th birthday of Boundary Bridge on this hike along a scenic stretch of Rock Creek.  Our leader for this nature exploration is Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of the award-winning   A Year in Rock Creek Park—the Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, DC.  We’ll enjoy the Park’s rich plant community and watch for maturing fall fruits, late summer and fall wildflowers, and perhaps some early color. We’ll keep our ears open for bird life and our eyes open for butterflies and any other wildlife activity. Our 2.5 mile hike will be on natural surface trails with moderate uphill and downhill walking.


240px-maidenhair fernFall Fern Hike at Turkey Run Park
Saturday, October 3 (9 am-2 pm)
Leader:  Cris Fleming
Members $26; nonmembers $36
At least 25 species of ferns occur along the Potomac River at Turkey Run Park in Virginia, off the GW Parkway.  On our field trip, we’ll introduce fern terminology and useful techniques to aid in identification of different species.  We’ll amble along the River where participants will practice using a simple key to identify many of the Park’s ferns.  Our “open classroom” is on mostly flat terrain along the River shore, but the hike does include a fairly steep downhill and uphill stretch.  There are also two rocky stream crossings—but there will be plenty of hands to help navigate these.

Natural Heritage Hike: American Chestnut Land Trust
Sunday, October 4 (full-day field trip)
Leaders: Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar
Members $34; nonmembers $46
A little over an hour’s drive from the Capital area, the American Chestnut Land Trust in Calvert County, MD preserves 3,000 acres in the most pristine watershed on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. That watershed—Parkers Creek—contains some of the largest unbroken woodlands left in this coastal plain county. We’ll hike between 4 to 5 miles of trails as we explore this rich area, keeping our eyes and ears open for wildlife activity and identifying plants along the way. There will be some uphill and downhill on this moderate hike.


PeregrineFalconOn the Move at Cape May  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Monday, October 5 (9 am) to Tuesday, October 6 (4 pm)
Leader  Mark Garland
Members $100; nonmembers $140
Cape May, at New Jersey’s southern tip, is known around the world as a great concentration point for southbound migrants. Staggering numbers of birds pass through Cape May when the winds come from the northwest after an autumn cold front. A great mix of habitats means there’s always lots to see here, even when the winds don’t bring the big migratory push. Early October is a great time for migrating falcons, accipiters, warblers, and monarch butterflies. We plan to visit Cape May Point State Park, the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, and other natural areas around Cape May. Overnight options include a variety of motels, hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds in or near Cape May.


Fall Flora along the C&O Canal
Fridays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section  A: October 9 - Carderock
Section  B: November  6 - Violettes Lock
Leaders:  Marney Bruce and Liz Jones
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28; both walks members $36; nonmembers $50
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. 


Eastern Black WalnutIntroduction to Tree Identification

Friday, October 16 (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 all-day 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.

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners
Fall Walk: Wednesday, October 21 (10 am-Noon)
Leader: Stephanie Mas
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.


Natural History of Galls

Saturday, October 24 (10 am-Noon)

Leader: Cliff Fairweather

Members $20; nonmembers $28

Naturalist Edwin Way Teale called galls edible homes and that’s not a bad two-word definition for these hijacked bits of plant tissue. Discover the fascinating, often complex, and occasionally bizarre world of galls, gall-makers, and their associates. Through a lecture and field exploration at our Woodend Sanctuary, we’ll learn about their natural history and develop our gall search-image.


Geology of Glendening Nature Preserve

Saturday, October 24 (1-4 pm)

Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34

Coastal Plain geology can be frustratingly subtle, but some of its features are revealed by a walk through the Glendening Preserve near Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Anne Arundel County.  Easily observed changes in drainage and plant communities will help us deduce the nature of the underlying sedimentary layers. Within the preserve’s upland, a few hundred yards separate semi-arid from well-watered environments, leading to surprising ecological juxtapositions. Fossils exposed during the Ice Age by the Patuxent River attest to the marine origin of the dry ground, while a boardwalk into Galloway Marsh offers views of the ongoing filling of a modern estuary. Our 2-mile walk will be across level, sandy ground, with possible muddy patches.  (Note: our pace on this walk will be faster than our usual naturalist’s shuffle.)


Walk Among the Giants
D: Sunday, October 25 (8-11:30 am)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
embers $24; nonmembers $34
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.


MapleTreeInFallFall Tree ID for Birders

Sunday, October 25 (2-4 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.


Botanical Gems in Montgomery County: Travilah Barrens  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE 
Sunday, November 1 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader : Carole Bergmann
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.

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 Hike on Sugarloaf Mountain

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.


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