The island boasts very diverse flora and fauna, with a particularly broad range of plant species relative to its size and a good range of typical archipelago birds. The roped off conservation area located on the southern tip of the island is used as a nesting ground by the endangered lesser black-backed gull, along with other gulls, terns and waders. The entire island also serves as a nesting ground for eiders, gulls and barnacle geese, in particular, which are quite numerous.
Those visiting the island during the nesting season are advised to avoid close contact with the island’s barnacle geese and common gulls, as they tend to be very aggressive in defending their eggs and young. On the other hand, the island offers an opportunity to see chicks hatching from their eggs, which is something you can’t experience just anywhere. The island is also an excellent place for observing frogs and common toads in particular.
The island includes many different habitats, such as common alder forests, coastal meadows, dry, rocky meadows and swampy rock ponds. The species inhabiting them have been carried to the island by the winds, the sea, birds and people, from as far away as the steppes of Russia. Species native to Russia found on the island include the warty cabbage and the hoary alyssum.
There are four conservation areas on the island of Harakka, one of which is protected due to its bird species, while the other three are protected due to their plant life. The protected coastal meadow is home to the rare restharrow.
Visitors can also explore Harakka independently by following the nature trail, which provides an overview of the island’s nature and history.
The Harakka nature trail is approximately one kilometre long and includes rocky sections that can be slippery and difficult to navigate. In addition to this, the trail involves crossing a pond along duckboards that are slippery in rainy weather and lack handrails, but this section can be bypassed by going around it. Visitors are advised to wear good shoes and remain alert. Please watch out for aggressive mother birds during the nesting season.
The Harakka Nature Centre is open to the public from the start of May to the end of September.
In the 19th century, when Finland was under Russian rule, the Russians built several artillery batteries and casemates on the island for maritime defence purposes. The casemates were storerooms used to store munitions and sacks of gunpowder in separate stacks. The batteries and casemates are well preserved.
Buildings dating back the Russian period that are still standing on the island today include an ice cellar and three wooden buildings: the officers’ house, a barracks building and the telegraph building. The first military operations involving Harakka took place at the end of the Finnish War in 1808, when the Russians bombarded the sea fortress of Viapori, nowadays known as Suomenlinna, from Harakka.
The largest building on the island is the Finnish Defence Forces’ chemical testing facility designed by Oiva Kallio, which was completed in 1929. The laboratory ceased operations and the building was converted into an artists’ house when the island was handed over to the City of Helsinki in 1988. The artists’ house currently houses studios for 30 artists.
Learn more about the nature of Harakka at citynature.eu.