Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Birder's Tribute to Trevor Quested

I was having a beer with Trevor Quested and friends at the Yandina Hotel, near our Sunshine Coast home, sometime in November 2011. Trevor mentioned that he had been feeling oddly unwell at times - as he had during an earlier visit - but that doctors did not seem to know what was wrong. I thought he was maybe being overly concerned, but just a month later came the cruel diagnosis - motor neuron disease.

In an email that Trevor and his wife Annie sent to friends at the time, he said he was "gobsmacked" by the news, and it appeared he was already going downhill fast: holding his binoculars steady and typing were becoming harder. His specialists did not expect him to be around a year later - he was told he would not see Christmas 2012. Trevor commented that he was fortunate to have such a loving and supporting wife in Annie.

Annie, Trevor & Glenn - May 2012.
Fortunately the specialists were wrong. Trevor battled on for three years and two months post-diagnosis before passing away peacefully at his Bundaberg home in the early evening of Wednesday February 11, 2015, aged 66. During a number of visits to the Questeds' home over that time, I never ceased to be impressed with the dignity and courage that Trevor and Annie demonstrated in dealing with this despicable affliction. Trevor was of course angry at first; he had ended his working life not that long before the diagnosis,and was looking forward to many years of birding, camping and other retirement indulgences.

Over time, however, he came to accept the inevitability of his lot and made the most of it in what were clearly very trying circumstances, for both him and Annie. Luckily the Questeds had their lovely shaded verandah and spacious gardens, with birds and kangaroos invariably in attendance. To the end, it was unfailingly a delight to Trevor to watch the goings-on in his special corner of the world.

I recall getting a phone call from Trevor last October, after Glenn and I had returned from a 4-month camping trip around Australia. His breathing was considerably laboured by then, but he had insisted on calling to thank me for posting a photo album from the trip on Facebook. Trevor had invited Eric Zillmann around to look at the photographs with him; he said it was like revisiting many of the places he had seen over his years of birding trips. That gesture, no small feat given his condition, was typical. During a visit a month or so later - and not so long ago now - Trevor was in surprisingly good spirits. He looked forward to visits from birding mates, especially if they brought new photographs to show him. We planned to visit again this week, as Trevor's final journey was not expected for a little while longer.

Trevor with Eric Zillmann - July 2011
Eric Zillmann is a Bundaberg birding legend and I knew him many years ago. I was delighted when Trevor reintroduced us during a visit to Bundaberg in July 2011. Eric is the only person alive to have seen the now-extinct Paradise Parrot in the wild. He captivated us with his vivid recollections of that historic time (see here for more on the parrot). Eric was one of many local birders who became close friends with Trevor. Trevor worked diligently to promote the local birding group and publish a newsletter that was as informative as it was professionally produced. That contribution was recognised by the construction in his honour of the Trevor Quested Bird Observation Platform in Bundaberg.

Commemoration of birding platform built in Trevor's honour - Pic by Chris Barnes
Trevor's enthusiasm for all things avian was infectious. I recall showing him his first Black-breasted Buttonquail at Yarraman, some time in the mid-1990s; he was so excited I thought he was going to hyperventilate. I first got to know him the early-1980s, when a few of us Brisbane birders would travel regularly from Brisbane to Sydney for monthly pelagic trips out of Rose Bay. I was struck by what an amiable companion he invariably was on those excursions, no matter how unpleasant the conditions.

In Akegara National Park, Rwanda - December 1989. Trevor is on the right, back. 
That companionship - and his boundless enthusiasm for not just birds but all wild creatures - was memorable during a 1989 trip I and other friends did with Trevor and his then wife Cilla to Rwanda, Kenya and what was then Zaire. Some of our shared experiences will not easily escape the memory: we were mock-charged by a gorilla; our boat was attacked by a hippopotamus; and our first Shoebill left us, as Trevor would say, comprehensively gobsmacked.

Even during illness, his enthusiasm did not wane. In October 2012, Trevor and Eric took us to see a Square-tailed Kite nest near Bundaberg. At the time, Trevor got about with the help of a wheelie walker. As soon as he was out of the car, he raced off through the bush with his walker, covering the distance of several hundred metres in a scarily short time. He was exhausted when he got there but keen as mustard to show me the nest.

At the Square-tailed Kite nest - October 2012
Trevor was renowned for his generosity of spirit and time. Apart from being an excellent birder, he was a gifted photographer, and technologically was way ahead of many of his peers, including this one. He positively relished sharing his knowledge and experience with friends. When I decided to take an interest in bird calls and playback, Trevor spent hours helping me to set up equipment; to become acquainted with i-tunes and much more; and to catalogue a large collection of bird songs. It was the kind of selfless thing that he just enjoyed doing.

I later helped him set up a blog (it is here) that was going to be his newest venture. Apart from an initial short post, however, he didn't get around to expand it before falling ill a few months later. Trevor continued to indulge his love of social media and technology during his illness, however. He mastered the use of an i-pad to reduce the effort of typing, and even when use of his fingers had been reduced to a reluctant single digit, he keenly recorded numerous Likes on Facebook posts.

With Trevor & Lucy - October 2014 
Trevor told friends shortly before his passing that he was ready to go. He was fortunate that he was able to avoid a prolonged stay in a nursing home, thanks to Annie's care. And however ill, he was always lucid, recalling in great and surprising detail his various and many birding exploits. For the birding community, his friends and family - and especially Annie, who was by his side at the end - the loss of Trevor Quested will be felt keenly for a very long time.


  1. Thanks, Greg, for penning such a moving tribute to a great person - who we miss sorely already.
    Kath and Dave in Cooktown

  2. A lovely tribute to Trevor, Greg. I got to visit Trevor and Annie two years ago and we chatted about birds, birding trips and birding acquaintances for a couple of hours. I am unable to go to Bundaberg on Friday. As my tribute to Trevor I have put in a big effort this weekend in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

  3. Here is one of Trevor's more entertaining trip reports, from a classic Wollongong pelagic. As usual the rest of us spent the day grabbing Trevor as he lent over the side of the boat, pulling his head back to vertical and telling him which bird was a new one. He'd say "bewdy, I've got it! Fantastic!" before the next dash for the side. As he said to me once, "Just remember, the only reason to ever write a trip report is to grip off everyone who wasn't there". Should be remembered as Quested's Rule, that one.

  4. Thank you Greg for a wonderful tribute to someone who was very close and dear to you.