I attended Dave Quady's Audubon Owl ID field trip this past weekend and observed a pair of Northern Spotted Owls! As the sun set, we studied a male and a female owl at close range through scopes and binoculars for nearly an hour. I sat down on the trail and made these small paintings, which I overworked later at home.
Perched on a bare redwood branch nearly at eye level, the male Spotted Owl slowly swiveled his head, watching us as we observed him. A pattern of concentric dark and white feathers gave his dark eyes a deep-set appearance. He settled on his perch, fluffed up his feathers and urped up a bolus that dropped to the forest floor.
The male Spotted made a few calls, described by Dave as "a rising series of barks followed by one or two 'whoo' notes," and began vocalizing more regularly at sunset. In response, the female Owl uttered a "single rising whistle plus short, quieter whistles." The male flew to the female and they mated (if you blinked, you missed it). The male then flew silently away and out of sight, and I fought the urge to stand and applaud.
Unfortunately, a few shutter-snapping marauders have done some pretty unethical things in the pursuit of a good Spotted Owl photograph. Because of these knuckleheads, we're sworn to secrecy about the location of this rare sighting.
Finally, here's a Spotted Owl that I painted last year in the studio. Much more exciting to paint from live birds on location (and more challenging)!