ITHACA, N.Y. — Last winter brought an unprecedented number of snowy owl sightings in the northern United States, and this winter is turning out to be above average as well.

Scientists believe last year’s southward sweep of the arctic species was triggered by a record nesting season in northern Quebec. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says there was another bumper crop last summer in Nunavut in northernmost Canada.

Snowy owls are being reported on the online eBird database this winter across the northern-third of the Lower 48 states from Washington state to Maine.

Last winter, naturalist Scott Weidensaul helped organize a scientific effort called Project SNOWstorm to put solar-powered data loggers on snowy owls. The effort is intended to help scientists learn more about where the owls go when they travel back north.