Last night (this morning?) I woke up around 3 AM. This, regrettably, is not an uncommon occurrence, but last night it proved to be abetted by a calling Great Horned Owl. Further listening proved that it was one of a duetting pair. I thought it might be nice to pull a pertinent quote out of the literature but my first attempt (Stone 1894) proved less helpful than expected:
"Resident. Rather common in the wilder parts of the country, but rare in the settled districts."
Then I went to Stone (1908):
"A rather rare resident." Stone went on to cite Babson (1901), which covers my current neighborhood (albeit over 100 years ago), so I figured I'd follow the paper trail. Babson said:
"At present this species is rather uncommon, but not as infrequent as [Barred Owl]. One is occasionally seen in the big woods near Cedar Grove, where an adult was recently shot and is now in the University Collection. During the past winter (1901) Mr. D. Miner Rogers saw one near the Millstone, and although but two nests have been found during the last five years, they undoubtedly breed every spring at Cedar Grove and Sorrel Mountain."
Being a newcomer, I don't know Cedar Grove, but I have a strong suspicion that "Sorrel Mountain" is now known as the Sourlands. Babson's introduction says of Sorrel Mountain: "North of Blawenburg is Sorrel Mountain, similar to Mount Lucas, but higher and more extensive..."
Final resort to Walsh et al. (1999) suggested that Great Horned Owl suffered in earlier times due to persecution. All I can say is that if I can wake up during the middle of the night in the condo/townhouse zone that Plainsboro has become and hear nearby calling Great Horned Owls, that must be some mark of progress.