West Elgin Nature Club (WENC)
Who We Are:
The West Elgin Nature Club is comprised of naturalists from the west part of the County and the eastern portion of Chatham-Kent, who share a common interest in nature study, as well as the appreciation and preservation of natural processes. From young to old, our membership includes farmers, woodlot owners, birders, plant enthusiasts and a number of others who simply enjoy the outdoors learning about our natural environment.
A Short History of the Club:
Our Club traces its beginning to the year 1946. Through the interest and encouragement of the late Dr. W.E. Saunders, small group nature enthusiasts assembled in the West Lorne Public School for the inaugural meeting. It was during this meeting that Mr. Earl Lemon was chosen as the first president of the Club. West Elgin Nature Club is a member of Ontario Nature and the Canadian Nature Federation.
Over the years, there have been many prominent speakers attend our meetings to share their knowledge and expertise on different environmental topics. The Club was particularly proud to have Robert Bateman deliver a guest lecture in 1996 as part of 25 year anniversary celebration.
Many of our members are avid birders in their recreational pass time. This has resulted in some rare sightings that are significant for West Elgin and the birding community in general. They include:
- The first confirmed sighting of the northern Cardinal, locally, was made on May 27th, 1928 by Earl Lemon.
- Mr. Dugald Murray reported the first Red-bellied Woodpecker in 1951 in his woodlot along the Thames River. Since that time they have become a common but not an abundant species.
- The first Canadian sighting of a Phainopepla (a bird of the southwest United States) was made by Mr. R. Pokraka on the Christmas bird count, Dec 27th, 1975.
- An American Avocet (a wading bird) visited the Rodney Sewage Lagoon during August 1978, a first record for Elgin County
- West Elgin also has the only record of a small brown orchid, the nodding onion and queen-of-the-prairie.
- Pyrrhuloxia, the Desert cardinal was located south of Eagle, Ontario on
- A Magnificent frigatebird was sited in West Elgin (former Aldborough Township) on June 29, 2012
- The Silver bordered fritillary butterfly was sighted on Sunday, July 1, 2012 in northwest portion of West Elgin near West Lorne
Club meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at 8 PM from September through April, skipping the month of December. They take place in the Grace Anglican Church in West Lorne and endeavour to include a guest speaker at each meeting. A social hour follows for members and guests to network and join in fellowship. Meetings are open to the general public.
Programs and Projects:
The Club has a number of ongoing projects and programs to involve members and help raise awareness about the natural environment locally. These can be summarized as follows:
- The West Elgin bird census occurs on December 27th every year with a potluck supper and a speaker at the end of the day. The meeting is held at the Grace Anglican Church in West Lorne.
- The Club builds and distributes blue bird and wood duck boxes and sells bird seed to area residents as a local fund raiser each year.
- In 1983, the Club entered into a long term lease arrangement with the Municipality of West Elgin to take care of the West Elgin Nature Reserve (formerly known as the Aldborough Memorial Forest)
- In 1999, the Club leased 2 miles (just over 3 km) of railroad right-of-way from the CSX railroad. This is known as the Dutton Prairie. This 10 hectare (24 acre) property, is one of the few naturally remaining Tallgrass prairies in Southern Ontario
WENC Events and Information:
If you think you would like to join the West Elgin Nature Club, come out to our next meeting and see what is happening. Annual membership fees are $10.00 per individual and $20.00 per family. To get more information about the Club and our activities contact Ken or Joan Neil of West Lorne at 519-768-2691 or Joanne Reive at 519-768-1365.