The Queen Victoria Market

There are many who read my posts. Apart from Victoria, there are others from different Australian states, Italy and Europe, and many from the US.

But I am not writing recipes this time.

I live in an apartment overlooking the Queen Victoria Market. This time, I want to tell you about the birds that come to my balcony to drink, and how Melbourne City Council are going to fell the trees where these birds nest. The reason is to make way for a development consisting of three block towers in the southern end of the open air car park in the Queen Victoria Market.

I have considered myself to be very lucky to live at the end of Queen Street in the centre of the city of Melbourne, and I have a roundabout in front of my apartment block plus twenty mature trees. This oasis and roundabout once had a sculpture on it that was especially designed and constructed within that green space to compliment the sculpture and provide a compelling entrance to welcome shoppers to the Queen Victoria Market. The market is one of the reason I chose to live here. In Adelaide I also had an apartment very close to the Adelaide market. In Trieste (Italy) where I lived as a child my family of three also lived close to the central market. When I travel, markets are always on my agenda.

Markets and fresh produce are very important to me. And so is greenery.

The roundabout with its specially commissioned art work by Lisa Young was erected over twenty years ago, and the variety of native trees were chosen in collaboration with a landscape gardener of Young’s choice. The trees are Casuarinas and two tall Eucalyptus trees. These trees, especially the Eucalyptus trees house a variety of birds that visit my balcony to drink from the water bowl that I provide. The Casuarinas house smaller birds that only occasionally are seen on my balcony. This one below liked my olive tree. They don’t often visit, but I hear them chirping.

The sculpture unfortunately was removed a couple of years ago, but the trees have remained. Until now.

Because the roundabout with its mature trees has contributed to this part of Queen Street being greener, the bird life has returned.  There are roadworks all around my apartment building and partly because of the hot days we have experienced recently and probably in the future, the water bowl I provide for the birds on my balcony and the security has been a haven for the birds.

The Wattle birds have visited my balcony for a number of years. The visiting couple nest as solitary pairs, alone during their breeding season, later in pairs and because breeding conditions must be favourable, they are brooding twice per year. They then visit as family groups of three. I have watched them dip into the water bowl, then preening and flapping their wings before they fly back to settle on the Eucalyptus trees.

The Lorikeets are the most numerous visitors and were the second set of guests after the Wattle birds; I have read that Lorikeets have reappeared in Melbourne CBD after decades of absence.

Interestingly, after some disputes to settle pecking orders the birds seem willing to share the bowl of water except when the Lorikeets bring their young; these rainbow- plumed parrots constantly chatter and perform acrobatic feats and dives into the water bowl keeping me entertained.

The spotted doves and the feral pigeons don’t seem to care about what other birds are drinking, and vice versa. They do a lot of cooing and pacing on the edge of the balcony and, when there is a space around the water bowl, they drink. They are simply ignored by everyone.

The Currawongs are the most majestic, and like the other varieties that visit they too like a dip in the water bowl, except that the bowl is not large enough and they take it in turns to stand in the water that only reaches to the top of their legs. It is very amusing. They make their melodic calls from the surrounding trees. They prefer to come when the sun is beginning to set.

The silent Crows also visit in twos, but not as regularly. Just like when the Currawongs visit, these larger birds have the bath and the balcony to themselves. Their presence is ominous.

Native noisy Miners and Indian Mynas come too, and there is no fighting with each other or with the other species. But how is this so? Aren’t Miners and Mynas supposed to be aggressive?

The black and white Peewees (Magpie-larks) with their distinctive, piping calls are the most recent arrivals to come. Their breeding season is from August to January and I am watching one family unit feeding their fledgling and teaching it to drink and dunk.

There is a grim reason for this accounting of city birdlife. The Queen Street roundabout and the trees that have grown there are to be destroyed within days. My neighbours have everything possible, but all strategies have been unsuccessful.

The trees and roundabout are collateral damage in Melbourne City council’s plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market through a land sale to the developer – Lendlease.

The roundabout which has managed the relatively smooth flow of traffic through and around the market will make way for a complicated intersection controlled by traffic lights. Is this a suitable replacement as an entry to our iconic market?

What’s more, as part of its urban forest strategy Melbourne City Council is planning to remove the Plane trees that continue along Queen Street and that border the existing open-air carpark. Within next ten years street trees in the rest of the CBD will reach the end of their useful lives and council is progressively replacing trees (including Plane trees) with new tree species that are more appropriate to the changing climate planted in public land across the Municipality. Removing old trees that are not suitable to our conditions and planting new trees is a positive strategy, but we have left it too long to begin to replace our older trees.

Trees take years to mature. The trees that are to be felled on the roundabout have taken more than twenty years to be old enough to support insects and birds of different species. One of the large Eucalypt trees is a flowering gum and the migratory bats come and feast on the blossoms during the flowering season.

Mature trees provide fantastic canopies and significant environmental benefits in terms of shade, cooling and biodiversity. Melbourne City has a target to reach a 40% green canopy cover by 2040.

How can we achieve this? Why are these trees on the roundabout been removed?

If the roundabout is to go, I will certainly miss it.

I ask myself why can’t Melbourne City Council find ways to save at least some of these trees, especially the two Eucalyptus trees and leave them as part of a nature strip that is within keeping with the rest of Queen Street that leads into the Queen Victoria Market? Too difficult? Don’t care?

Trees and birds need us as friends in difficult times.

Please save the trees, and by doing so, save the birds and the insects.

And how does the sale of the land by Melbourne City Council for a development benefit the Queen Victoria Market?