Here is a photo of Mike Wilson, a carpenter from South Austin, installing the house we had built for Coconut the Owl last month. Mr. Wilson used to build owl boxes for his carpentry clients, but now he makes them to fill his days in retirement. His phone is full of photos of owls from the back yards of happy customers. “I’m not making a fortune,” he told me, “but I’m making a fortune in friends.”
Mr. Wilson has built over 800 (!!!) owl boxes for folks all over. He builds two a day and installs two a day. We got box #833. He told me he wants to get well past a thousand. “I just want to keep going,” he said.
The boxes are custom-built with reclaimed wood for smaller Eastern Screech Owls like Coconut, mainly to help protect them from bigger predators, like the Great-horned Owl, but also to encourage them to stick around and have babies.
We had a house built for Coconut today!
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) January 28, 2021
Mr. Wilson said his quickest box installation to owl inhabitant time was 14 hours, but it took Coconut a little longer… or so we thought.
A downright gorgeous day in Austin, Texas. Coconut is hiding in the bamboo again — the squirrels are in a frenzy, ripping up the tree cruft for their nests — but here’s a video of her from yesterday ? ? #coconuttheowl pic.twitter.com/QMTaOo7MQX
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 3, 2021
Here’s a video of her still in the palm tree, chilling in the sunshine on February 3rd.
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 7, 2021
And here’s a video of “her” four days later, on Superb Owl Sunday, except she was looking a little skinny and angry.
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 11, 2021
Three days later, on February 10th, she’s looking like herself again, but still not in her house.
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 13, 2021
And then, two days ago, before our big winter storm, Coconut was looking really mean and miserable. We were getting really worried about her. Why didn’t she go sit in her box?
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 14, 2021
And then, yesterday… a miracle! Coconut was in her house, looking radiant! I immediately texted Mr. Wilson some photos.
Mr. Wilson was quick to point out that it seems we’ve been looking at two different owls — Coconut, and what appears to be her MATE. Yes, in a perfect Valentine’s Day twist, what appeared to be Coconut in a sad, miserable state, was probably just… well, her husband, basically.
UPDATE (2/20/21): Several people have written to me noting that screech owls puff up when they’re happy and “go skinny” and weird when they’re trying to blend in with the tree. Well, dear readers, I am happy to inform you that we have visual confirmation that there are, indeed, two owls living in the box!
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) February 15, 2021
PS. If you live in the Austin area (he does not ship!) and you want Mr. Wilson to build you an owl box, email me and I’ll give you his number.