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The island of Sanday lies in the northeast of Orkney. Its underlying geology, in combination with the effects of erosion, has created many bays and inlets. At the lowest tides, great areas of sand-flats and rocks are exposed providing rich feeding grounds for thousands of wintering wading birds and haul-out areas for seals. There are spectacular machair dunes and links on the east side of the island and, offshore, kelp forests that are crucial to the island’s ecosystem as they provide shelter and rich foraging areas for the seals and the source of cast seaweed in which the birds feed.
In recognition of the very special characteristics of Sanday, a significant length of coast has been designated both a RAMSAR site and Marine Special Area of Conservation, important for its Common Seals (largest Orkney Common Seal colony) and winter wading birds, most particularly Purple Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone. There are several SSSIs on the island and the marine coast around the east of the island is designated s Special Protection Area due to the presence of sand dune and machair habitats, rare outside the Hebrides, as well as extensive intertidal flats and salt marsh.
Sanday is a diverse island encompassing a variety of habitats from fertile agricultural lands, rocky and long, sandy shorelines plus sea cliffs, sheltered bays and freshwater lochs. Each habitat provides its own suite of wildlife and plants along with stunning scenery, interesting geology and like the rest of Orkney, the wonderful seascapes and skies day and night.