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Items of Interest  
   

Harris County Constable

The Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's office patrols Sydney Harbour subdivision at regular intervals. Their job is to help keep our neighborhood safe.  If you should see something or someone suspicious, call 911 or the Constable's office at 281-376-3472.
 
If you are going on vacation or will be away from your home for multiple days, call the Constable's Office at 281-376-3472 or go on-line at http://www.cd4.hctx.net, select On-Line Services at top of page, scroll to the bottom to select Vacation Watch and complete the request form.  They will provide special patrols for your home.

Harris County Animal Control Services

If you need assistance with a domestic animal such as a dog or cat, you can call Harris County Animal Services for assistance.  They can help you with issues such as stray dogs, stay cats, spay & neuter programs, vaccinations licensing, pet adoption and many other services.   You can reach them at  (281) 999-3191.

Street Lights Outage

If you notice a street light out, please report this to CenterPoint Energy.   They will usually have lights replaced within a few days.   You will need the six digit number located on the front of the light pole and the nearest address.   You can report these to 713-207-2222 or 1-800-332-7143 or via their website at  http://cnp.centerpointenergy.com/outage.
 
Hazards of Feeding the Ducks

As many of you may have noticed the Tree Ducks, also known as Mexican Whistlers, have returned to Sydney Harbour in ever increasing numbers each year, while our Mallards have decreased.  They appear to be most prevalent in the area of 10-12 homes surrounding where homeowners feed these wild birds.  While observing the ducks is enjoyable and feeding them may even be fun, the majority of homeowners have found them to eventually become quite a nuisance and difficult to get rid of once feeding is started.  The mess, along with the health hazards to the ducks, additional wildlife, pets and even humans has created frustration, expense, decrease in use of outdoor space and even serious illness among pets in our neighborhood. 
 
Feeding the ducks, according to the US Wildlife and Fisheries Department, the governing body charged with managing waterfowl, can result in several illnesses among the ducks themselves and has resulted in the actual death of large numbers of ducks in some areas when there is an epidemic of disease.  When large numbers of ducks congregate in small areas such as our waterways they are often eating and defecating in the same areas. Uneaten food can mold causing illness and attracts rodents. Bread is very hazardous to ducks.  Large populations concentrated in small areas also encourage competition for food and mates.  During the mating season, when there is such competition, males often kill off by drowning the females while fighting for “privileges”.  It has been observed near Grotto Point that this winter there are 24 male mallards and only one female. Over the past few years many of us have observed the violent deaths of these females.  The nesting by the female mallards in our flowerbeds is not just a nuisance and health hazard but unsafe for the ducks.  The baby ducks rarely survive due to turtles, large fish, dogs and cats and rodents, despite the efforts many of our residents go through trying to save them. This is a further indication that ducks are better off when they can nest in areas that are natural habitats…ducks have survived for thousands of years not being fed by humans! And creating dependence on humans for food leads to death by dogs and cats and even automobiles as these creatures lose their natural fear of humans and wander our neighborhoods.
 
 One average duck creates 1/3 lb of feces every day. Multiply that by over 100 counted in one 10-12 home area alone, that is 33 pounds of feces per day being deposited in the water, on our yards, docks, bulkheads, driveways and rooftops.   The concentration can result in degradation of the quality of water and increase in algae growth, which is something our HOA dues is paying to prevent.  Additionally, the feces can increase the concentration of e coli in the water.  While swimming in our waterways is prohibited, many of us enjoy canoeing and kayaking and contact with e coli contaminated water can result in personal illness.  Bird feces in general can result in many illnesses including salmonella, giardia, and general bacterial infection causing gastrointestinal illnesses. You, your children or pet walking outside in areas contaminated by duck feces can actually track it inside your home to your carpet or flooring.  There is also anecdotal information that the droppings are highly corrosive and can damage or cause deterioration to any building material including shingles and wood. They may also carry mites and a “bedbug” type insect that can invade our outdoor furniture cushions.
 
Cleaning up after the ducks that have left unsightly messes on docks and bulkheads is a necessity to keep our community clean and pleasant appearing.  However the CDC has strict guidelines for how to safely clean bird feces which involves wearing protective clothing, a mask and even a respirator when there is a large concentration of droppings.  Spores from the feces that can be infected with histoplasmosis can travel for long distances and when inhaled, can cause a serious respiratory fungal infection.  Those most susceptible include infants and children, people with compromised immune systems such as those undergoing chemotherapy, those with asthma or respiratory diseases and the elderly.   
 
Jim Steinbaugh, the Special Agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Department says that the most effective deterrent to nuisance ducks is to STOP FEEDING them.  They will eventually move on to natural food sources.  It is illegal to feed them in common areas and common waterways. Deterrents include loud noises, mylar balloons, decoys of predators such as hawks and coyotes and squirting them with a water hose.  There are also spike strips that can be placed along the bulkhead and dock but are costly and they can easily fly over them. Consistency is the key as well as daily relocation of visual deterrents.  And in some cases, the roosting takes place over night in which case most of us are asleep.  But he also states that once the ducks become accustomed to your deterrents they will return.  It appears that resident feeding usually takes place just before dark and early am, so the ducks are waiting at surrounding docks and bulkheads. This would be the prime time to use your deterrents.  In special cases where duck populations are determined to be a health hazard by agents such as Mr. Steinbaugh, there are some provisions for eliminating some of the ducks, by permit only.   We are very hopeful that would never have to happen.
 
We live too close together to not be mindful of actions on our own property that impact others. Please do your part by not feeding the ducks…its harmful to people, pets and ducks, its unsightly and can cause damage to our property.  Let’s keep Sydney Harbour a place where we can live peacefully and safely. 
 
References: 
 
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nas/RDRP/appendices/chapter6/a6-133.pdf
http://wildlifecenter.org/sites/default/files/Consequences-of-feeding-wild-ducks-in-public-parks.pdf
http://www.liveducks.com/duckbread.html
http://www.fws.gov/midwest/feedingwaterfowl.htm
 
 
 
 
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