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Explore & Do More...

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Our small selection of terrestrial mammals is resident year round. Otters make their home all over the island and can appear anywhere although they are, by nature, very secretive so it takes a bit of luck and patience. Particularly favoured areas are close to both sea and fresh/brackish water, so the seaward side of Sanday's three lochs are good places to seek them out. Sanday also has it's own vole unique to the island, the endemic Sanday Vole which is a sub-species of the Orkney Vole. Larger than its British relations, it makes a great meal for a Short-eared Owl feeding hungry chicks.  Hedgehogs are also a fairly common sight with animals much more diurnal than their mainland counterparts.


Both Grey and Common Seals can be seen throughout the year on Sanday. Grey Seals pup at the stormiest time of the year in late Autumn, the white fluffy pups are unlikely to enter the sea for up to four weeks so are easy to spot dotted along the shoreline. They treble their weight by the time they are weaned and all too soon are independent. Common Seals breed during the summer (June/July) with pups able to swim almost immediately. Sanday is particularly favoured by the Common Seal although there has been an alarming downturn in numbers in recent years.


Perhaps the most sought after sighting in Orkney are Orca or Killer whale. Small pods of Orca can be seen from Sanday during the summer months and occasionally even in winter.  Other cetaceans seen from Sanday at varying times of year are the diminutive Harbour Porpoise, Risso’s Dolphin and Minke Whale. In October 2016, Emma photographed the first recorded Humpback Whale for Sanday feeding with Risso's dolphin off Start Point lighthouse! Several other species of cetacean have also been recorded on Sanday through the strandings records.  including Fin Whale, Sowerby's Beaked Whale and Long-finned Pilot whale.  In December 1994, 11 Sperm whales stranded and died on Backaskaill beach.

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