Summer's Natural Splendor
By Jenna Boyle Feehan
Published: 06/10/2011  Updated: 08/08/2019

With longer days, warmer weather and long-awaited rays of sunshine, the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest erupt in vibrant celebration. Step out and join the party!

Summertime on the Northwest coast is a nature-lover's fantasyland. Winter storms subside and daylight begins to stretch long into the evening. Mild temperatures coax us out of doors and Mama Nature begins her fantastic summer performance. Venues to choose from include verdant temperate rain forests, sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, capes, headlands and the expansive Pacific. Here are some of our favorite natural marvels to gawk at, photograph and enjoy during the lovely days of summer.

Head out during low tide and glimpse a world of plants and animals that live most of their lives under water. Astonishing marine fauna such as sea stars, urchins, hermit crabs, anemones, mussels, barnacles and limpets present themselves in spectacular assemblage. Examine closely and you may spot a tiny, colorful nudibranch and don't miss the marine photosynthesizers: several varieties of seaweed are often represented in a single pool.

Of the hundreds of avian species observable on the north coast, many are seen primarily or exclusively in summer. Celebrated arrivals include Tufted Puffin, Common Murre and Rufous Hummingbird. Osprey and Bald Eagle soar overhead while Brown Pelicans plunge-dive for dinner. The song of the Swainson's Thrush echoes through the forest, Cedar Waxwings tweet and whistle as they search for berries, owls hoot in the night and ubiquitous residents like cormorants and gulls assuredly keep you company; the latter especially if you have snacks on the beach.

What's that in the water?! The north Pacific Ocean holds incredibly diverse marine ecology and the relatively calm seas of summer provide increased visibility (as do binoculars). Harbor Seals, Steller's and California Sea Lions and occasional Elephant Seals swim the waters close to shore. Farther out, look for the gushing spouts of titanic mammals like Orca, Gray, Humpback and Blue Whales. Harbor Porpoises and several species of shark are also present, so keep an eye out for dorsal fins.
Summer's Natural Splendor