New Kensington bloggers spot first signs of spring

Penn State New Kensington’s biologist bloggers Bill Hamilton, assistant professor of biology, and Deborah Sillman, senior instructor in biology, have posted the first observations of spring to their blog site, Ecologist's Notebook: Reflections on the Natural World of Western Pennsylvania.

“Signs of Spring 1: Do You Remember the Color Green?” was written Feb. 25. While western Pennsylvania is still in the throes of a harsh winter, Hamilton sees some things happening that remind him that the seasons are changing.

“When I get up with our 6:30 a.m. alarm, the sun has begun to light up the early morning sky and I now can see what I am doing,” Hamilton said. “When I drive home from work at 5:30 p.m., I don't absolutely need to have my car headlights on. The days are stretching out at both ends. Warmth is sure to follow.”

Last year, Hamilton observed early signs of spring in mid-January, with the arrival of robins and wood thrushes. This year, migrating birds have been a bit tardy in their arrival. Traditionally, the American robin arrives in the area around Feb. 14, according to Hamilton.

“Other than a couple of very confused looking robins perched up in surrounding maples, we have seen no arriving spring migrants yet,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton and Sillman started blogging in 2008. The husband-and-wife team oversee the maintenance of the campus Nature Trail that was constructed in 1985. Each year, they write about the birds, insects, mammals and flowers that herald the arrival of spring. They report on their observations around their Apollo house and on local nature trails, as well as the campus trail.

Their primary observation venues are the Roaring Run Trail and the Rock Furnace Trail in Apollo. The 5-mile long Roaring Run Trail follows the Kiski River and terminates at the village of Edmon. The 1.5-mile Rock Furnace Trail follows Roaring Run from its confluence with the Kiski River to Brownstown Road in Apollo. The trails are maintained by the Roaring Run Watershed  Association

To view Hamilton's blogs and to make a comment, visit

For more about the trails, visit

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Last Updated March 12, 2014