Midsummer Afternoon – Part 1 – Visit to Harakka Island

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer

It was a hot afternoon just after Midsummer. I went to downtown Helsinki to take some photos.

In the first photo, you can see a jackdaw walking at the Market Square tram stop. I took the picture while waiting for the tram.

A jackdaw walks by © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The second photo is an “aerial photo” of a family of mute swans, two adults,

and five little cygnets. I’m on the shore end of the pier, from which the boat to Harakka picks up passengers.

I think the leftmost cygnet has some Cladophora around the base of the neck, at least I’m hoping it’s that and not plastic (I noticed the green stuff when looking at the edited photo). The green algae, which has a Finnish name ahdinparta, beard (parta) of the old Finnish god of the sea Ahti, is rather ubiquitous in shallow waters here and there’s a lot of it on the underwater stones in the picture.

Swan family dinner. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I took the boat to Harakka. The digitalis was in bloom and there were wild strawberries. It could be that when the Imperial Russian army was using the island before Finnish independence, they planted strawberries and other berries, as I’ve heard stories that it was their way to prevent the soldiers in fortress islands from having scurvy.

Digitalis and strategical strawberries.  © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This red-leaved rose was growing in a forested area on Harakka. I like how simple and unpretentious it looks.

Red-leaved rose with green leaves. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Most of Harakka is ruled by dinosaurs in the summer. This gull seemed to be above any ergonomic considerations.

Common gull forming an animal puddle. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

My visit to Harakka was cut a bit short by the low battery charge level of my phone. I had neglected to take an emergency charger (“sähköpossu”/”electricity piggybank” as I like to call them) with me.

Having come back to the mainland from Harakka, I saw these crows on a sign (warning about the underwater cable AFAIR) on the pier. They were “singing”. There’s a Finnish saying “Äänellään se variskin laulaa.”, which could be translated as: “Even the crow will sing with its own voice.”

Crows singing with their own voices. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I did take more than these pictures on Harakka and there could be material for further posts.


  1. Jazzlet says

    That digitalis has the common English name of “foxglove”, the conceit being as the name suggests that foxes use the flowers as elegant gloves.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    Jazzlet @ 2

    Thank you! I should have remembered that. I have plates* (Staffordshire Tableware, probably by Biltons) with pictures of foxgloves and even the text “Foxglove”.

    * = I got a set of them from my mom who had bought them from a mail order catalogue, when I moved from home. Most of the plates are already lost or broken (it’s been 27 years), but a few remain.

  3. lumipuna says

    I’d think wild berries on a fortress island seem like an inadequate vitamin source, especially during winter when regular food would be most likely lacking any vitamin C.

  4. lumipuna says

    That said, wild strawberries were historically cultivated and distributed by humans in all kinds of places, as a nice summertime treat. Farm kids picked them and sold them to wealthy people at good price.

    The species pictured is woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), native and common in Europe but not as abundant as it used to be. It is still sometimes cultivated, but the common garden strawberry is a different
    (hybrid) species that originates from wild American species and has been only cultivated in Europe/worldwide since 19th century. Traditional agriculture in both Europe and (Native era) Americas provided plenty of open habitats for wild and semi-domesticated strawberries.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    lumipuna @ 4

    I’m not sure if naval/coastal artillery fortresses were fully manned during the winter. Naval warfare on frozen sea wasn’t really possible before 1897 when the Imperial Russian Navy got the first modern icebreaker, Yermak (built by Armstrong-Whitworth in UK).

    I have never seen anywhere else so many wild strawberries as I have in Harakka. There are also bushes there with berries, but I don’t know what kinds of berries they are.

  6. says

    You still got wild strawberries? Our whole front yard is wild strawberries and they’re the best. I love the crows. I love all crows

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    Giliell @ 8

    No wild strawberries anymore this year, the photos are from late June.

    Crows seem to do all kinds of photogenic things and while they try to avoid anyone who pays too much attention on them, they are bold enough that one can photograph them more easily than many other birds.

  8. lumipuna says

    Some strawberry clones (in several species) can bear fruit for several months a year, but the usual fruiting season is about one month a year.

    Ice Swimmer -- just waiting for you to get a shot of a magpie (harakka) in Harakka.

  9. Ice Swimmer says

    lumipuna @ 10

    I saw one on that trip, but it flew away before I could photo it. They’re good at not getting photographed.

  10. jrkrideau says


    As a Canadian, that does not look like a crow to me.

    Of course Giliell says that our robins are different.

  11. Ice Swimmer says

    jrkrideau @ 12

    Our crows are also different. This species/subspecies is known in English as hooded crow (Corvus cornix or Corvus corone cornix). Your crows are probably American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). The hooded crow lives in Ireland, Scotland, Nordic Countries parts of Middle East and Eastern Europe (including Italy and eastern parts of Germany). In Western Europe (including Giliell’s neck of woods) crows have the same all-black coloration as American crows and they are called carrion crows (Corvus corone or Corvus corone corone)

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