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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    


Winter Tree Identification
Friday, February 3 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Using the clues of buds, twigs, bark, and fruit, we’ll practice identifying trees in winter in this half day workshop at our Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, MD. We’ll begin inside with a look at techniques of winter tree identification, take a lunch break, and then move outside to use our new skills to identify many species of woody plants that grow on the Woodend grounds.

flyingsquirrel croppedNight Gliders
Friday, February 3 (5:45-7:15 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.

Winter Hikes in the Mountains
B: Sunday, February 5 (full day hike) -
Thompson Wildlife Management Area, VA (4-5 mi)

Leader: Stephanie Mason
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 Birding Lecture Series
Thursdays (7-9 pm)
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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside  SORRY-CANCELLED
Saturday, February 11 (2-4:30 pm)
Leader: Cliff Fairweather
Members $20; nonmembers $28
Despite the chilly temperatures, nature is still out there waiting to be explored. Pull on a coat and join a naturalist for a winter walk at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA.  Using the Park’s woodlands and wetlands as our outdoor classroom, we’ll discuss the basics of winter ecology and search for signs of the strategies organisms from grasses to grackles to gray tree frogs employ for winter survival. 

New Year’s Moonwalk
Saturday, February 11 (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 Weekend at Cape May 1 SPOT LEFT
Saturday, February 11 (9 am) to Sunday, February 12 (4 pm)
Leader: Mark Garland
Members $100; nonmembers $140
Cape May is a magnet for bird life at all seasons, and mid-winter is no exception. Enjoy the peace and quiet of this picturesque seaside resort in winter and search for birds along the ocean coast, in field and forest, and through the extensive coastal salt and brackish marshes. The length of our walks will be determined by the weather: if it's bitter cold, we'll venture out on many short excursions with many warming breaks. If it's mild, we may undertake longer walks.  Birds won't be the sole focus, as we'll discuss coastal habitats and conservation, and if other wildlife shows up we'll be sure to watch and enjoy.  Saturday’s activities will be restricted to Cape May proper, but on Sunday we plan to venture further north to search for other coastal wildlife, perhaps staying in Cape May County or, if unusual sightings await, heading as far as the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and/or Barnegat Light. If it’s clear and calm on Saturday evening, we’ll try calling for owls under the full moon’s light. Several motels and B&Bs remain open all winter in Cape May, many offering bargain rates. 

Winter Birding at Oaks Landfill  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
B: Sunday, February 12 (3:30-6 pm)  
Leader: Mark England
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.

Saturday, February 18 (9:30 am-5:30 pm)
Leaders: John Bjerke and Cyndie Loeper
Members $34; nonmembers $48
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.

President’s Day Hike on the Canal: Swain’s Lock to Pennyfield Lock  FULL
Monday, February 20 (10 am-2:30 pm)
Leader: Cathy Stragar
Members $24; nonmembers $33
Got the day off? Join our half-day hike on the towpath along the C&O Canal from Swain’s Lock to Pennyfield Lock. On this 3.5-mile stretch along the Potomac River, we’ll hike through floodplain forests and wetlands. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for winter birds and other wildlife, while practicing our winter botany skills.

Belted KingfisherA Year in Rock Creek Park
A: Winter Tree Walk at Boundary Bridge
Saturday, February 25 (10 am-2 pm)
B: Spring Wildflower and Budbreak Walk at Boundary Bridge
Wednesday April 12 (9:30 am-2:30 pm)
C: Forest Bathing at Pinehurst Branch
Wednesday, May 31 (9:30 am-12:30 pm)
D: Fall Nature Hike in Rock Creek Park
Saturday, November 4 (9:30 am-3:30 pm)
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Walks A and C: members $28; nonmembers $38
Walks B and D: members $34; nonmembers $42
In 2016 the award-winning author of A Year in Rock Creek Park completed 10 years of her popular walks for ANS titled “A Year at Boundary Bridge.” This year, Melanie Choukas-Bradley will branch out into other areas of Rock Creek Park with a new series of field trips throughout the year. During the winter tree walk, we will examine the twigs, buds, bark, and overall shapes of the park’s floodplain and upland forest trees and shrubs as we look and listen for winter bird flocks and the always anticipated visit of a kingfisher. We will also look for the winter-flowering skunk cabbage. On the April walk, we will witness the annual floral miracle of  Virginia bluebells, spring beauties and trout lilies in the floodplain forest, in addition to the leaves of tuliptree and American beech spilling from their buds. In May, we will have a change of pace and scene with a Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing walk in the Pinehurst Branch area of Rock Creek Park. Autumn will find us hiking the Western Ridge and Valley Trails during peak autumn foliage and fruiting season, stopping to study and admire trees along the route. Please join ANS as we visit familiar parts of Rock Creek Park and explore new ones! The Boundary Bridge Walks will cover a 2.5 mile loop on natural surface trails with moderate uphill and downhill. The Fall Hike will traverse 4-6 miles, with uphill and downhill on natural surface trails which may be rocky and uneven.

Point Lookout Birding220px-Brown-headed Nuthatch-27527-4c
Sunday, February 26 (9 am-dusk)
Leaders Hal Wierenga and Lynn Davidson
Members $34; nonmembers $46
Maryland’s Point Lookout State Park marks the junction of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake. Here the waters are broad and deep, and during the cold water months, they’re home to loons, grebes, ducks, and other water birds. Join two birders who know this area well in an exploration of the Park’s shores and its shrub and woodland interior, which harbors songbirds, woodpeckers, and specialties such as the Brown-headed Nuthatch. Depending on time and weather conditions, the explorations may also move to nearby St. George.


Winter Woods of Great Falls Park, VA
Saturday, March 4 (1-3:30 pm)
Leader: Liz Jones
Members: $20; nonmembers $28
Pull on a wool hat, thick socks, and cozy gloves to enjoy late winter’s unobstructed views of the forested habitats along the Potomac River at Great Falls Park, VA. On our hike of up to 2 miles, we’ll focus on the basics of winter woody plant ID, enjoying this popular Park in a quieter season. Trails will be natural surface, with some rocky, moderately-steep and possibly muddy stretches.

Winter Birding at Black Hill
Section D: Sunday, March 5 (8:30-11 am)  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Mark England
Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
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.

Winter Walks Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section D: March 8 - Great Falls  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk: members $20; nonmembers $28
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.

Woodcock Watch  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE800px-American Woodcock Scolopax minor
Saturday, March 11 (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.

Window into the World of Fungi
Thursday, March 16 (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.

Urban Watershed Restoration Challenges - the Foundry Branch
Saturday, March 18 (9 am-1 pm)
Leaders: Neal Fitzpatrick and Bill Yeaman
Free, but registration required.
The Foundry Branch begins near the Tenley Metro Station and flows south into the Potomac River, just west of Georgetown. We will look at the natural features of the park and discuss long-term stormwater impacts and needed infrastructure rehabilitation. We will walk the watershed from north to south, looking at past problems and imagining the changes needed to restore water quality - a primary objective of the Clean Water Act. Reps of the National Park Service, DC Department of the Environment, and DC water dept. have been invited to join us. Participants can return to Tenley on a Wisconsin Avenue Metrobus or make plans for lunch in Georgetown.

Beginning BirdingFeathers
Thursday, March 23 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, March 25 (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.

Late Winter Birding in Prince William County
Sunday, March 26 (8 am-3 pm)
Leader: Paul Pisano
Members $34; nonmembers $46
With winter winding down, we’ll bundle up for one last foray to wetlands and woodlands in Prince William County, VA in search of lingering waterfowl, resident birds, and some of the first returning migrants. We’ll plan to spend the first half of our day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Woodbridge, VA before heading downriver to our final destination at Leesylvania State Park along the Potomac River.

HarbingerOfSpringEarly Spring Wildflower Hike  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Sunday, March 26 (1-3:30 pm)
Leader: Liz Jones
Members $20; nonmembers $28
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. The hike will traverse some uneven, rocky and likely muddy natural surface trails for roughly 2 miles.

Spring Saunters Along the Canal
Wednesdays (10 am-12:30 pm)
Section A: March 29 - Carderock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section B: April 12 - Widewater  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section C: April 26 - Swain’s Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section D: May 10 - Riley’s Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Section E: May 24 - Violettes Lock  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $20; nonmembers $28
Entire series $85/$119
Enjoy one or all of these leisurely walks along portions of the C&O Canal. The focus of our walks, each beginning from a different location, will be general natural history of the varied habitats along the Potomac River and the Canal. We’ll proceed at a slow “naturalist’s shuffle” pace as we watch spring unfold. We’ll stop often to observe birds, wildflowers, butterflies, snakes, turtles, and whatever else we might find. Carpool from Woodend with the leader if you desire.


Budbreak at Theodore Roosevelt Island  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINEPawpawFlower
Wednesday April 5 (9:30 am-1:30 pm)
Leader: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Members: $28; nonmembers: $38
Join award-winning author and naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley for an early spring walk on Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88-acre park in the middle of the Potomac River opposite the Kennedy Center. We will explore the park using a loop trail through the island’s forests and along the boardwalk through its scenic swamp. During spring in the Washington area, when naturalists’ eyes turn to our magical ephemerals and migrating birds, the miracle of “budbreak” among the woody plants is often overlooked. We will examine the buds of many species of trees and shrubs as they burst from their winter-protective scales to reveal their spring leaves and flowers. Expect a leisurely walk of 2-3 miles.

Introduction to Wildflower ID
Thursday, April 6 (7:30-9:30 pm)
Saturday, April 8 (9:30 am-3:30 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.

Barred Owl 16022579448Evening on the Canal  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
Friday, April 7 (6:45-8:45 pm)
Leader Stephanie Mason
Members $20; nonmembers $26
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.

Saturday, April 8 (10 am-2 pm)
Leader: Joe Marx
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Seneca Creek State Park, in central Montgomery County, MD, preserves much of the valley of a medium-sized Piedmont stream. Modern floodplain and valley wall features are easily observed along the Greenway Trail, which threads through the Park. In addition, dramatic rock outcrops tell the story of an ancient ocean that was consumed during the formation of Pangaea. We will hike from Darnestown Road to Black Rock Mill and then back, for a total of around 3 miles. Our hike on natural surface trails will combine potentially muddy floodplain terrain, with some rocky upland areas. Note: Our geology hikes move at a faster pace than our usual naturalist’s shuffle.

The Secret Lives of Spring Wildflowers  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINETroutLily
Sunday, April 9 (1-4 pm)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
They’re lovely to behold. But their beauty belies the scrappy, survival strategies of our region’s short-lived spring wildflowers. Coping with cold temperatures, species such as Trout Lily and Dutchman’s Breeches race to complete their flowering and fruiting cycles before the brief window of spring sunlight gets shut out by the unfolding forest canopy. Our Senior Naturalist will spill some of their secrets in a roughly 2-mile round trip walk between Violettes and Riley’s Locks along the C&O Canal.

Walk Among the Giants
B. Saturday, April 15 (8 am-Noon)
C. Sunday, July 23 (8 am-Noon)
D. Sunday, Oct. 22 (8 am-Noon)
Leader: Stephanie Mason
Each walk members $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.

Native Plant Gardening for Homeowners 
Spring Walk: Wednesday, April 19 (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.

River Herring Return to Rock Creek
Saturday, April 22 (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. 20th annual walk!

Prothonotary WarblerSpring Early Birds (7-10 am)
A.  Saturday, April 22 – Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, MD (Mike Bowen)
B. Sunday, April 30 – Huntley Meadows, VA (Mark England)  FULL - REGISTER FOR WAITLIST ONLINE
C. Saturday, May 6 – Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge, VA (Mike Bowen)
D. Sunday, May 14 – Glover-Archbold Park, DC (John Bjerke)
E. Saturday, May 20 – Great Falls Park, MD (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 learn the songs of many species.

A Spring Morning on Roosevelt Island
Sunday, April 23 (8:30 am-12:30 pm)
Leader Stephanie Mason
Members $24; nonmembers $34
Come and explore the bottomland woods, shrub swamp, and freshwater marsh of Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88-acre park in the Potomac River at the Fall line. Join our senior naturalist on this loop hike around the Island, where we’ll keep our eyes open for seasonal blooms and ears open for early migrants - as well as all things Spring!


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