NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Bird Mating Ritual

 The groundhog may not have seen his shadow this year, but that does not mean the mating season will be delayed for Nevada’s birds. In fact, some birds have already begun to mate.  The sandhill crane, for example, began mating back in December and, in non-migratory populations, it will continue to mate until April.  Sandhill cranes can be observed in the Ruby Marshes and in Lamoille Valley.

As a juvenile, this majestic wading bird is not much of a spectacle, but as it reaches adulthood, hormones will trigger changes in appearance. Both males and females of the species will molt their ochre-colored baby plumage (feathers) and develop mostly gray feathers, white cheeks, and red crowns.

To attract a mate, the male and the female will engage in a unique courtship ritual known as unison calling. During unison calling, they will participate in a dance display and a synchronized duet. The sandhill crane will mate for life and continue this ritual with their partner every year.

Another early breeder, renowned for its unique dancing display is the greater sage grouse. Sage grouse are the most common grouse in Nevada, and can be found in 15 of the 17 Nevada counties.  Every year, this sagebrush-obligate galliforme (ground feeding bird) gathers in groups known as leks where males (cocks) will compete with each other for females (hens). Unlike the sandhill crane, though, the greater sage grouse will not mate for life, but seek out a new partner each year. In addition, hens will typically mate with only three out of the eight available cocks per lek, leading some cocks to form harems.

In cocks, hormones will trigger their spiky tail feathers to fan-out and their giant yellow air sacs to become more prominent. To attract a hen, the cock will gobble up the air, creating a popping noise as it flashes its air sacs.

Hormones will also trigger physical changes in sagebrush-obligate songbirds like the Brewer’s sparrow and sage thrasher, specifically by enlarging their larynxes. This enables them to project their calls over long distances so that they can defend large amounts of territory and attract mates. The sage thrasher will mate with a single partner each year and the Brewer’s sparrow will mate with multiple, forming a harem. Though not as ostentatious (noticeable) as the greater sage grouse, these charming little birds make up for their drab plumage with their melodic songs.

Unfortunately, the songs and dances of these iconic birds have been disappearing in the wild due to the loss of their habitat. As you get outside to do some bird watching, enjoy the sounds of nature that come from our feathered friends.  Remember to be consciousness and respectful of their space, keep your distance while witnessing the awesome that nature has to offer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Nevada Outdoor School's 2020 Annual Report

Nox the Fox, our new NOS mascot and I, are both extremely proud of the results shared in the following pages of this Annual Report. 


For you, we are beyond grateful! Your generosity allows us to do what we do every day. We are thankful for not only our partners, sponsors, and funders that help support our programs financially, but also for all our participants. We are fortunate to be part of such active and adventure-seeking communities that trust Nevada Outdoor School not only with your safety, but your children’s safety as well. 

Nevada Outdoor School took advantage of what 2020 brought to slow down, review, rethink and reimagine our programs. Due to the overwhelming support and interest in our programs we worked to rise above every challenge thrown our way and offered a variety of programming that was COVID respectful and protected our staff and participants. I am very proud of how Nevada Outdoor School rose to the occasion and provided the best outdoor experience possible for kids and adults during such unique and unprecedented times. Check out the “By Numbers” page where we share some of our celebrated results. 


In October, we rolled out a new strategic plan that will guide us into the future and allow us to better serve you and your community. Our three focus areas, Youth, Training, and Healthy Community brings us together at the intersection of two things all Nevada Outdoor School supporters can agree on–our love for nature and our love for outdoor recreation. We are blessed to live so close to wide open, public spaces that continue to fill us with beauty and inspiration. My hope is that you find your own peace, inspiration and joy in nature. As the sun rises on a new year, here at Nevada Outdoor School, we truly believe that while the future may be challenging and filled with uncertainties, it is indeed bright and full of new paths and opportunities.

For more details about our upcoming fun, engaging and creative programs, outreach events and fundraisers that you can be part of, go to our website, or to our Facebook page.


The Future is Bright!


Melanie Erquiaga, Executive Director

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Sometimes Love Stinks!

 As we enter the month of February, we will start to notice longer periods of daylight and shorter periods of darkness. This is because the northern half of the earth, known as the northern hemisphere, will tilt more towards the sun. With longer sunnier days ahead of us, the earth will begin to warm. The icebound land will begin to thaw, allowing water to resume its flow, and sprigs of grass will start poking through the receding snowpack.

Plants and hibernating animals like marmots, skunks, and bats will rouse from their long winter naps and humans will watch the world reawaken. These seasonal changes in day length will also trigger important physiological and behavioral changes that will prepare plants and animals for survival and mating. How, though, will longer days trigger these changes?

Day length varies throughout the year, but occurs in predictable cycles like clockwork. As it increases, it will send biochemical messages to plants and animals through their cellular proteins. This will kick-start their metabolisms and tell their bodies to start making ‘the stuff of life.’ For example, longer days will signal plants to start making pollen and mammals to start releasing pheromones (chemical substances that will trigger social responses in other organisms) into the environment.

These biological changes that occur in plants and animals each year in response to these changes in day length are called circannual rhythms. Circannual rhythms evolved over millions of years. They are highly adaptive and help keep plants and animals on Mother Nature’s tight schedule; priming their bodies so that they will be ready to seek out sweethearts by the time they leave their dens.

In Nevada, mammals such as marmots, beavers, and skunks will be the first to deliver their ‘valentines.’ Marmots, which are closely related to groundhogs, will woo their mates with their high-pitched vocal calls or, like true gentlemen, deliver them bouquets of dead flowers. Beavers and skunks, on the other hand, which have poor senses of sight and sound, will release pheromones, which essentially send chemical love letters to potential mates. In addition, skunks will also use their anal scent glands to emit pungent odors that will repel unwanted suitors.

Yes, love may stink, but it is in the air! So, as you prepare for Valentine’s Day with your cards, flowers, and boxes of chocolate remember that nature is waking up to the realities of mating. Be aware as you get outside and explore that you may smell fragrances you don’t like, but that they are instrumental for the survival of other species.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Nevada Outdoor School NAMED “2020 TOP-RATED NONPROFIT” by GreatNonprofits

 Award based on Outstanding Online Reviews

Nevada Outdoor School has been named a “2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit” by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews of charities and nonprofits. 

Nevada Outdoor School provides outdoor education opportunities to inspire exploration and stewardship of nature in Humboldt, Elko, Lander, and Pershing counties resulting in behaviors appropriate for responsible outdoor recreation. 

“We are honored to be named a 2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit,” says Melanie Erquiaga, Executive Director at Nevada Outdoor School.  “We are proud of our accomplishments this year, including summer camps, after school programs, outdoor ethics programs, community events and classroom lessons.”   

The Top-Rated Nonprofit Award is based on the rating and number of reviews that Nevada Outdoor School received from volunteers, donors and event participants.  From a Mountain View 3rd Grade Teacher, “Students love the Nevada Outdoor School programs. They have given students opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.”  And, from a Nevada Outdoor School parent, “I have two kids (5&7). They absolutely love all of the camps and programs put on by NOS. They love learning about nature and I love that they also learn to respect Mother Nature and how to help preserve it for future generations. NOS is awesome.”

“Nevada Outdoor School is a great example of a nonprofit making a real difference in their community,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, “Their award is well-deserved recognition not only of their work, but the tremendous support they receive, as shown by the many outstanding reviews they have received from people who have direct experience working with Nevada Outdoor School.”

GreatNonprofits is the leading website where people share stories about their personal experiences on more than 1.6 million charities and nonprofits. The GreatNonprofits Top-Rated Awards are the only awards for nonprofits determined by those who have direct experience with the charities – as donors, volunteers and recipients of aid. 

The complete list of 2020 Top Rated Nonprofits can be found at:

About Nevada Outdoor School  
Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.  Visit for more information.

About GreatNonprofits
GreatNonprofits is the leading site for donors and volunteers to find stories and ratings of nonprofits. Stories on the site influence 30 million donation decisions a year. Visit for more information.