A Stressful Goodbye
My last run-in with CC138

So 'escape artist' Cape Cormorant 138 has been moved to the aviary and -- for good or ill -- is scheduled for release tomorrow. Lucky me was tasked with cleaning around him. Cleaning the aviary by one's lonesome is always a great feat; crates and towels that serve as perches must be removed, the pool drained and scrubbed, and the layer of carpets and mats lining the inside must be removed, cleaned, disinfected and changed, all while anywhere from 10 to 100 birds run around squawking at you for getting up in their space. It is a veritable ordeal that involves many a trip through the squeaking gate with a wheelbarrow -- something that did not go unnoticed by our resident Houdini.  

The first few passes went without incident; 138 sat at the upper back of the aviary minding his own business. But by the time I entered for the fourth time hauling dirty mats from the pen, he knew something was up. He parked himself on the perch less than a metre from the gate...watching. I, however, was not going to let him out so easily. Having so many failed attempts before, this was my last chance to keep this bird where he was supposed to be, and thus began an hour-long game of 138 flying toward the gate and me closing it as quickly as possible. At one point he even landed on a fold in the door. But try as he might, I would not let this bird budge.  To be fair, given he wasn't being forced to swim I don't think he was trying his hardest.

Then, the unexpected happened. 138 opened his mouth and started panting. The hyperventilated pant of a stressed, overheated bird. And I didn't know what to do. I hurriedly filled the pool in case he was hot, but he didn't seem interested in water. I'm not sure if it was the crisis of knowing he couldn't get out or dramatic theatrics to see if I would fold, but I must say, he put on a show. I almost opened the door and let him fly out. Almost. But he stayed; the aviary was clean; and after gaining a single victory after weeks of frustrating losses, I waved goodbye to the unforgettable 138. Ta.