Sunday, August 17, 2008

Finding an Interim Flute

Ever since I ordered a boxwood Irish flute from Peter Noy (as described in my May 9, 2008 post entitled Flute Dilemma Resolved), I've been eager to start transitioning my technique from silver flute to Irish flute. By the time my Peter Noy flute arrives in late 2009, I want to be ready for it. That means I need some sort of Irish flute now! And so began the quest for an interim flute. I watched the Chiff and Fipple Flute Forum as well as eBay, and I started asking all my friends with wooden flutes if I could play a tune or two on their flutes. Little by little, I learned what was available in the various price ranges and started to form some opinions.

In May, an interesting flute appeared on the Chiff & Fipple Flute Forum, a Terry McGee blackwood flute, the Grey Larson Preferred model with the Minimum Disruption Tenon. The owner was willing to lend it to me for a trial period. After a week or so I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it. However, I wasn't sure I would ever get much resonance from it, so I finally decided it wasn't the flute for me. I am very grateful to its owner for trusting me with it for a while. That was incredibly helpful. I took its picture before sending it back.

I started reading more and more about the Casey Burns Folk Flute. One of my friends has a Burns flute that I had borrowed a few times, so I had some first-hand experience with Burns flutes. Priced at $375, the Folk Flute seemed a reasonable interim flute.  However, the predicted delivery date would have been too late for me to use it during Catskills Irish Arts Week. I decided to keep looking.

About this time a Casey Burns Folk Flute appeared on eBay for $275. Bingo! It was made of mopane, a beautiful dark wood. It was the small-handed version which I thought might be a good as a transitional flute. Buying a flute without playing it -- or even seeing it -- seemed risky, but the Burns flutes have a good reputation and at $275, how could I pass it up? I had never before bought anything on eBay, so it took me until the last few hours of the auction to muster my courage and click the "Buy It Now" button.

On June 10, 2008 my eBay flute was delivered to me at work. I was so excited that I declared it lunchtime and headed for the park to try it out. I was very pleased. It played easily, had a nice sound, and the hole placement was really comfortable. At home that night I oiled it per the maker's instructions (which had thoughtfully been included) and started breaking it in.

A few days later I learned that it was virtually a new flute. The seller was a whistle player who thought he'd like to play the flute as well, but changed his mind after only a few attempts.  I felt like I had landed a real bargain - a new flute from the maker I had decided upon with no waiting period!  Here it is - isn't it pretty?  

I've been surprised at how much progress I've made over the last two months. I'm now able to predictably cover the holes and to play many tunes at a decent tempo. As I work on tone, my sound gets stronger and more resonant. Yes indeed, this Casey Burns Folk Flute will be a good interim flute for me.

© 2008, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sea Turtles Nesting in Palm Coast, Florida

My husband, Dan, is standing beside a nest of sea turtle eggs at Cinnamon Beach, a condominium resort in the town of Palm Coast which is halfway between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine on Florida's Atlantic Coast. We attended a family gathering there during the last week in June. I had no idea that sea turtles nest in Florida, so finding these nests was a delightful surprise. Little did I know that the East Coast of Florida is the world's second largest nesting site for loggerhead turtles.

Although loggerheads are the most common, leatherbacks and green sea turtles are also known to nest in the area. All are classified as either threatened or endangered and are protected by state and federal laws. Here's a closeup of the sign posted on all the nest sites:

According to the Volusia and Flagler Turtle Patrol, turtles have been nesting on beaches there for 100 million years. The Atlantic coast nesting season extends from March through October. Each nest contains up to 100 eggs. The eggs incubate in the sand for 50-70 days before the little turtles break out of their shells and scramble down the beach towards the water. Click here to see a Turtle Patrol video of a hatchling crawl across the beach and dive into the surf! (Be patient while the video loads. It's worth the wait!)

In our condo I found a copy of the Turtle Patrol's brochure (page 1 and page 2). It warns against behaviors which might prevent hatchlings from finding their way to the water. For example, light can disorient the hatchlings who generally make their run from the beach to the water at night. Apparently they head towards the glow of the horizon. Flashlights or lights from nearby houses can cause them to be confused and to head away from the water. The brochure also advises filling in any holes children might leave in the sand as well as holes made by beach umbrellas and cabanas, since deep indentations in the sand represent deadly hazards for hatchlings. Recreational vehicles should not be driven in soft sand, and all litter should be removed from the beach to ensure hatchlings reach the sea safely.

Even when all these precautions are observed, hatchling survival rate is pretty low. Only about one hatchling in 1,000-10,000 become mature adults. Some succomb to pitfalls on the beach, others become food for sharks, large fish, or sea birds. Storms are a problem too, since hatchlings emerge in hurricane season and are sometimes washed ashore by storms and stranded. They get sick from polluted waters and generally suffer from loss of habitat as beachfront development often means sand gets pumped in from the sea to improve the beaches and sea wall construction is undertaken to protect adjacent real estate. In fact, beach building projects during nesting seasion can result in burying of sea turtle nests. Life is truly hard...

If all goes well, the hatchlings remain in the coastal waters of the Indian River Lagoon which runs between the mainland and the barrier islands along most of Florida's Atlantic coast. They eat sea grass beds and are protected by the reefs near the shore. Eventually, they swim out to sea. Fifteen to twenty-fived years later, females will return to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs. While they do not nest every year, females will lay between three to eight clutches of eggs in a nesting season.

I was fascinated to think that only five minutes from the condo we rented, 200-350 pound turtles had hauled themselves out of the sea to lay eggs in the sand. One night I actually went down to the beach at midnight, hoping to see a big turtle. No luck. But after returning home, I decided to contribute to the work of the Volusia and Flagler Turtle Patrol by adopting one of the nests they protect. They will earmark a nest on Cinnamon Beach as "my" nest and will update me when the eggs hatch. Won't that be exciting? I may not have seen a turtle, but perhaps I'll get news about the hatchlings that emerge from the mound of sand above.

© 2008, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement