The sound of great horned owls, the higher-pitched female and the basso profundo of the male, echo across the forest before dawn’s first paling. They call back and forth to each other, one further up the hill than the other.
The last hour before daylight and the first hour of night is when they are most active and most vocal. I have lived on this mountain for more than 20 years now, and their presence has been a constant, though I have rarely seen them.
When I have seen them, it has nearly always been on a dreary, dark morning, when an overcast sky tempts them into staying out later to hunt for prey. When that happens, crows may already be up and spoiling for a good early morning mobbing of the predator. Sometimes, they meet up with another nemesis, the red-tailed hawk, which inhabits roughly the same ecological niche and eats much the same prey. Those two are natural born enemies.
This morning was far more typical. I heard the pair but never saw them, invisible companions.