Fond du Lac has returned!
Fond du Lac, the snowy owl who visited Door County in 2020, has returned after an absence of 18 months!
Fond du Lac, a fourth-year female, was trapped and tagged by Project SNOWstorm on Feb. 23, 2020, near Waupun, WI. She was fitted with a cell phone transmitter that includes a GPS tracking system which logged her movements until April 2020, and then went silent. She was originally tracked, along with 14 other snowy owls, from North Dakota to the eastern Great Lakes and Canada before losing connection. During the two months before her GPS tracker went silent, Fond du Lac traveled north to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before traveling back down through the bay of Green Bay, where she spent several days. Fond du Lac was also recorded visiting Chambers Island, home to Door County Land Trust’s largest nature preserve at over 800 acres!
Fond du Lac wintered near her capture area and migrated north in early April 2020. After that, she was radio silent for the next 18 months. Fond du Lac didn’t reappear last winter, and according to Project SNOWstorm, “We never know whether that means a mortality, a transmitter failure or a bird that simply stayed too far north for cell coverage, since our transmitters work through the GSM cell network. In this case, it was the last, as we found out November 21 when Fond du Lac checked in from near the Cree community of Eastmain, Quebec, Canada, near the southeastern edge of James Bay.”
As you can see in her map below, courtesy of Project Snowstorm, she nested in the eastern Ungava Peninsula of Québec in the summer 2020, then moved inland and nested about 60 km northwest of the Kangirsuk, an Inuit village on the north shore of the Payne River. In the summer of 2021, she nested on the sea ice of Baffin Island, before migrating south to southern James Bay in November 2021, where she checked in and uploaded the previous 18 months’ data. Door County Land Trust is excited to continue to track Fond du Lac’s visits to the islands and peninsula, where she and many other migratory bird species benefit from the Door County community’s conservation work.
Follow along to learn what is next for Fond du Lac the owl. We wish her safe travels and hope her transmitters keep calling in. Will she continue south and stop by Door County again, perhaps resting at one of our nature preserves for food and fuel, or will she keep her most easterly route and head toward southern Ontario? Many snowy owls return to their wintering sites annually, which is clearly not the case for Fond du Lac. If you want to follow Fond du Lac’s migratory adventures, along with 14 other owls and the Project SNOWstorm news, click here.