Spring equinox and “Lóan er komin” – although warmth still elusive for Iceland

Iceland’s most beloved migratory bird, the ‘lóa’ (golden plover) has arrived and is heralded as a harbinger of spring. But although temperatures are rising now, the news follows a particularly harsh and wintry weekend.

The first confirmed sighting was in the countryside of western Iceland on Monday, not far from the town of Akranes; but later the same day two more of the birds were seen within the Reykjavík city limits. The golden plover’s distinctive ‘dirrindí’ call is recognisable to most people in Iceland.

The golden plover is welcomed with a traditional song called ‘Lóan er komin’ (the golden plover has arrived).

Ólafur Karl Nielsen, ornithologist, told RÚV that the first wave of migratory birds comes in dribs and drabs ahead of the main groups. The three golden plovers already confirmed to have arrived in Iceland probably come from Scotland, Ireland or Spain.

Despite their arrival, with snow still on the ground in many parts of the country, there is still a while to wait before the plovers start thinking about nesting. The same is true of most bird species in the country. There are, however, some sea birds already in the mood for spring – and the ruffled and harassed appearance of the ravens, with chunks of feathers missing due to aerial fights at this time of year, tells its own story.