A good Friday

Good Friday, as the implies, was a Good Friday. Not much on our schedule these days, but the weather, again, promised to be nice. We cannot let that pass without going outside. And so we did. After a spontaneous call with a local couple we befriended here just before corona hit the world, we decided we would all take a corona self-test, and – as these were all negative – go out for a joint and distanced walk. It’s strange to meet up again with people, after being rather isolated for several months.

The hike started good, with what I think was an ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria, feasting on the flowers of the cherry blossoms. A beautiful bee.

We decided to hike a trail along the Isar river, between Marzling and Hangenham. The loop is only around 10 kilometres long, but it takes you from the rather colorless dull town of Marzling, where we used to live for a couple of months, up the hills North of the Isar river, that I believe were formed by glaciers in the last ice age. On clear days – with less pollen flying around – this hilly ridge gives you a majestic view over the peatlands further South, towards Munich Airport, the city of Munich, and all the way to the Alps. Yesterday, the skies were dense with pollen though, so we didn’t catch a glimpse – not even a silhouette – of the mountains. A short trail takes you through the deserted town of Rudlfing, which is little more than a church and five farmhouses. The paved road turns to gravel road and the walk continues to the town of Hangenham, which is slightly bigger than Rudlfing, but still barely alive. Of course it has a church, and even a hotel that is balancing on the top of a steep slope and has terraces with great views. Unfortunately, it has been closed forever, so we only dreamt of having a ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ there.

The Moosach. Plenty of beaver marks here last year

In Hangenham, the trail takes a sharp right, down a rough gravel path that zigzags all the way down to the Isar. I love this part of the trail. It gives me the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, far from civilization. Down at the river, the trail runs through tall maple forests and swampy meadows that serve as floodplains for whenever the river runs high water. A smaller sister river, the Moosach, also runs parallel between the Isar and the hills and even though it is a rather compact area, I think it provides good habitat to many bird species, including goosander, kingfishers and several species of woodpecker. Last year, I also spotted lots of beaver trails and chewing marks in this area, as we walked this trail almost every day when we still lived in Marzling. Back then (we moved during the first lockdown) there was rarely a soul in sight on these trails. It was far enough from the city of Freising to keep the crowds away. Cyclists were there, but not a nuisance. Times have changed. E-bikes were zooming by every couple of minutes and the trail was filled with hikers of every age group. It seems that the increase in ‘local recreation’ – likely a result of the lockdowns and travel restrictions – has also left a mark on wildlife. I haven’t spotted a single beaver mark, other than the done damage that I have noticed last year, when it was still fresh. It seems that the beavers have left the area in search of a quieter place.

So far, the vegetation seemed more or less unaffected by the hordes of people. At least they stay on-trail. I can’t recall if anything of interest grew or flowered here last year. My state of mind at the time was not good, and I hardly noticed anything at all. I will walk the loop more often in the coming season, to see if I can spot anything interesting pops up! Yesterday, I only spotted three species of flowering herbs.

I found heaps of this plant flowering. I think it is toothwort, Lathraea squamaria, a parasitic plant that lacks any chlorophyll. From what I could find, these plants tap into the resources of alder or hazel plants, but I found it around some Acer sp. although both other plants are common in the area.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of longer-term impact the pandemic will have on local ecosystems. I see these people and wonder if they would have otherwise travelled abroad? I think that the announcement of a lockdown or travel restriction may have even encouraged quite some people to go outside that would otherwise have stayed home.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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