|"Great Horned Owl" Colored Pencil|
It's dusk and a great horned owl is positioned on a broken post near the forest's edge. Motionless, it waits patiently for the reemergence of its subterranean prey, the meadow vole. In the background a full moon has risen above the blue, volcanic-shaped peaks. The heavily built owl is mostly brown with vivid striping across the pale chest. The facial disc encompasses large, yellow eyes and a pointed beak. Powerful, black talons grasp the wooden perch. The large ear tufts are neither horns nor ears they're just feathers that form the most distinctive feature of this fierce predator.
According to one author, "Almost any living creature that walks, crawls, flies or swims, except the large mammals, is the great horned owl's legitimate prey". Its preferred food source is small to medium-sized, nocturnal mammals such as rabbits, shrews, mice and voles but it has the power to predate much larger fauna like porcupines, marmots and skunks. The owl is a ruthless attacker armed with a variety of hunting tactics. Sometimes, it may actually walk on the ground during the pursuit of small animals or into a chicken coop to take the fowl inside. Rarely, it will wade into shallow water to catch aquatic prey and an owl can snatch a bird or squirrel directly from a tree branch.
Sheltered under the protective covering of deep snow, the meadow vole scurries about full of careless confidence. The owl won't need its spectacular, binocular vision tonight because its extraordinary hearing will enable it to pinpoint the vole's exact location. The stealthy owl will dive silently from its hidden vantage point and ambush the unsuspecting prey. Then razor-sharp talons deal a fatal blow and the victim is swallowed whole. Versus a flying tiger the outmatched, little rodent doesn't have a chance.