Mid-winter signs of spring trigger posts on duo's nature blog

January 30, 2013

Bill Hamilton, assistant professor of biology, and Deborah Sillman, senior instructor in biology, are a team at Penn State New Kensington who 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. On their blog site, Ecologist's Notebook: Reflections on the Natural World of Western Pennsylvania, they report on their observations around their Apollo house and on local nature trails, as well as the campus trail.

This year, the biologists bloggers are getting a mid-winter start. The first entry, "Signs of Spring #1: An Unexpected Visitor," was written Jan. 13 by Hamilton and deals with a wood thrush sighting in his backyard. Since wood thrushes migrate to southern Mexico or Central America in September and October, and do not usually return to the area until late March or early April, Hamilton surmised that his hungry guest was either four months late leaving or two months early returning.

The second blog, "Honeybees," was written Jan. 16. The unseasonably warm temperatures of almost 70 degrees enticed the bees to a nectar and pollen happy hour. Alas, it was quixotic search as western Pennsylvania is laid bare of flowers during the winter season. And the bees expended valuable energy reserves that may hinder the survival of the hive until spring.

The third installment, "Groundhog Day," was written Jan. 21. Hamilton recounts his battle with and ultimate surrender to the ubiquitous woodchuck, which because of nearby Punxsutawney, has gained legendary status as a one-day meteorologist. Although Hamilton downplays the rodent’s Nostradamus-esque acumen, most people believe the batting average of local weathermen isn't much better, despite the fact that 25 percent of meteorologists are Penn State graduates. For Hamilton's blogs and comments, visit http://www.personal.psu.edu/hw7/blogs/nature/.


  • Bill Hamilton's Jan. 21 blog post looks at Groundhog Day.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 30, 2013