Lately I have had a couple encounters with a great horned owl. These are the largest owls in our woods, big enough to be a danger to our birds. Most often we hear them hooting in the woods across the road, it is far less common to actually see one. But a few weeks ago, one was perched on a phone pole next to the farm stand. It was late afternoon, not dusk, but it was a gray, rainy afternoon. It had something peculiar in its mouth, so I ran inside and got binoculars and my camera. The binoculars fogged up and were useless, but I did get a few photos. It turned out that the owl had a black bird's wing in its beak, and while I briefly worried about my ducks, they were accounted for. Crows were cawing & harassing the owl, so it may have been a macabre warning that they were next if they didn't back off.
That evening it was time to shut the coop doors and secure the birds for the night. I watch for Gobbles to go inside, he's a pain but also normally the last one to go to bed. It's my cue that I can latch in the crew without forgetting anyone, with the exception of the rooster & turkey hens who prefer to sleep safely in the pine trees. As I walked out, I saw a fairly large brown bird in the weeds. My first thought was "wonder why the turkey hen hasn't gone to bed?". I was just about to talk to it, as I was maybe 6 feet away but just on the other side of the pen fence when the bird looked up at me. The enormous yellow eyes that looked me over were not what I was expecting! Here was the owl, picking at the remains of my hen. Since the trail of feathers started inside the pen, I knew this was not the killer, but I couldn't fault the bird for coming in for an easy meal, either. It was absolutely stunning to be that close to a wild owl. In size, it was about knee high sitting on the ground- they are not small birds! Other certain ID traits were the tufts of feathers on each side of its head, and of course, those yellow eyes.