There are so many aspects in wildlife caring, no less in being a carer for one overall species, as I was -- for birds.
A favourable part of that whole involvement, is when you release birds, either young juveniles you've hand-reared yourself, or others which have been injured or sick.
Adults of the latter circumstances are, as often as possible, released back into their own territory, as many of them have partners or families to return to. First-time releases are found suitable areas where all of their needs are taken into account and, very importantly, where they'll be as safe as possible from predators or other birds which may prove to be unfriendly.
I had a call from our wildlife shelter, concerning a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita, 46 - 50cm), they'd had for a few weeks. He'd been slightly injured, but had fully recovered. The problem though, was that none of our experts could assess whether he'd been a captive bird, or one from the wild. This is usually very easy to tell, regardless of what species the bird is.
So with much trepidation at first, back-pedalling to a tentative agreement amongst themselves, the shelter's main body decided this bird could be released. He'd been found in my area, so I was asked to collect him and take him back to the same place he'd come from.
An hour later, having made the pick-up, I took out the large carrier from my car, next to a very expansive parkland, which acted as a divide between two suburbs.
In the distance, I could see a childs' playground and from there, various pathways had been designed for walkers. Running through the centre of the entire area, (some half a mile long), was a creek with no fencing alongside, but left in a sunken, craggy, natural state. The width of land each side of the creek was about 50 metres.
Following their squawks, I could see 40 - 50 Cockatoos feeding in a couple of trees directly opposite me, and about 20 metres away from the other side of the creek.
So far, so good. It looked like being a good release and as is the procedure, I set the carrier down to wait for a while, as the bird I'd brought picked up the sounds of the others. In fact, he did this very fast and began making a few squawks of his own.
This, of course, got the attention of the feeders, and most of them stopped eating, and turned towards the newcomer's direction.
I waited another few minutes, anxiously taking note of the flock's movements, but they seemed calm and no adverse vocals or behaviour were evident. And so I opened the carrier door and stood back.
What should have happened, was that the bird fly over to the others. He didn't. Instead, he ran in a crazy, excited way to the edge of the ground that sloped down to the creek. He stood for a few seconds, contemplating the descent, then seemed to jump over and out of my sight.
I ran across and looked down, seeing him standing on a dirt mound at the edge of the water. While I looked around, trying to find a safe way for me to go down and retrieve this bird who obviously couldn't fly, he began calling out to his peers.
It was a pitiful call he was making. He knew he couldn't fly, and he knew he couldn't cross over to the others because of the water.
Before I could make my way down to him, I heard the heavy, powerful sound of Cockatoo wings, and looked up to see that three of them had left the trees and were flying to the helpless newcomer.
They flew low over him, calling and flying on upwards behind him in the same path he'd gone down. They flew in an arc, and crossed back over the creek again, but without stopping, returned to him and flew up behind him once more. This time, they landed in a nearby tree and the new arrival jump-climbed his way back up from the creek, and crossed over to the tree. Hitching himself by beak and feet alternatively, he climbed the trunk until he reached the first, low branch where his three rescuers were perched.
As soon as he had managed to nearly reach them, they flew back to their flock.
The released bird seemed a little confused by his new position and me, finally shaking myself out of a state of amazement, realized that somehow, I had to get the bird down from the tree. This had all seemed to have happened so fast, and I chided myself many times after, for not coming to my senses and catching him before he made his climb.
Nevertheless, there it was -- the bird's problem solved and now one for me.
Retrieving him wasn't too difficult. I saw a government worker cutting grass on a ride-on mower, and after signing to him to turn the machine off, I asked if he could ride it down to where the bird was, so I could use it as a makeshift ladder.
Breaks in monotonous jobs always seem to be welcome, and within 20 minutes, the mower had been converted from razer to rescuer.
Before another hour had passed, the Cockatoo was back at the shelter and happy enough to be with the other fourteen Cockatoos he'd spent the previous few weeks with.
These majestic birds, doomed to spend a possible 80+ years away from the life they were meant for.