Dick Knight built a batch of screech owl nest boxes years ago and gifted them to friends. He gave one to me. I put it on a tall pole in my yard five years ago. We had never seen any activity and figured that maybe the location was not suitable.

During the warm spell this past February, we took it down, pole and all, to examine and reposition it. Turns out, it had fresh nesting material in it. Maybe we just couldn’t monitor it regularly where it had been. We replaced the roof of the box and picked a new spot on the other side of the house in full view from the porch and living room couch.

We were worried that perhaps the owl that had started nesting wouldn’t find it in the new location. No problem! Next day we saw a little face peering out. Over the next several nights we listened to the mating calls emanating from the nest box. Then all was quiet until a few weeks ago when scuffling inside the box began. We set up a telescope on the porch so that we could spy on them close up. Soon the faces of some very haggard- looking parents appeared occasionally at the opening. Then the head of a very fuzzy-faced owlet began peering out.

This past Tuesday afternoon, it was clear that there were two youngsters taking turns shoving each other aside to get a look at the dogs wrestling in the yard nearby. We got lots of videos with our phones aimed through the telescope. Just in time, too. Right after dark, there was a lot of fluttering around the box, followed by loud rustling in the leaves. The babies had fledged. I’m pretty sure that they fell the dozen feet from the box and bounced on the vegetation below. They seemed to be well padded with a combination of baby down and newly-emerging feathers.

We feel fortunate to have witnessed this creation of new life, especially since we recently attended the showing of The Lost Bird Project at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The heath hen statue in the state forest is one of five sculptures created to memorialize birds that have become extinct. The origin of the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest was to provide a permanent habitat for the rapidly-decreasing population of heath hens. Alas, it was too late. Lucky for us that the forest is there for other critters.

The nest boxes that Dick built and spread across the island are part of his legacy of appreciation for the world that he lived in and his ambition to share its wonders with others. As he did with all of his woodworking treasures, my nest box has his initials and the date carved into it: RSK 2018. That guy sure knew how to give a gift!