Twilight Visitor

The other evening I was going around the house, closing windows for the night. I was a bit startled to see a large shape outside, sitting on the wrought iron fence. It was only visible because where I was standing the deepening sky was behind it, highlighting it. It looked about 2 feet tall at first glance. Was it a hawk? Not that late, I was fairly certain.

(click on any photo to see a larger picture)

When I realized it was an owl I was pretty excited. We can hear them frequently around here at night, but I've never seen one close up like this. I ran to get my camera, even though I was afraid it would be long gone by the time I got back.

But it was still there!  And I was able to open the sliding door and screen and go outside. I started trying to make hooting sounds, but know I was missing at the outset....sounded more like the doves we have here. But as I continued I could tell I had gotten quite close to the correct call, and had his attention now.

The owl seemed very calm, and I moved slowly as I got closer. It allowed me to take quite a few photos, and only was surprised when it heard the camera noise. The closest I got was 10 feet away from it, and I thought I was doing pretty well! Finally it flew off but my last photo of it flying had a dark background of brush and trees so the owl is not visible. In this shot, I have lightened the sky/background a bit to make him more visible.

All in all, a treat to encounter.  In the photos, there are bird feeders to the right side of the photos. These are slightly in front of the fence where the owl was sitting. Perhaps he thought it would be a good hunting spot?

Looking at a favorite bird site, it turns up Great Horned Owl as the only one in my area which matches this fellow. The two tufted ears. The color description matches too - dark brown, gray-brown mottled upperparts and dark barred underparts; head has distinct ear tufts and rufous facial disk (which I could barely make out on the lightened photo).

Great Horned Owl on 'whatbird.com'