Tonight (at exactly 11:30 PM) I heard a great horned owl while trying to get in the door that was nearly frozen shut. I have not heard a GHO in the wild in the past, only in captivity, two years ago when I was helping out at a wildlife rehab center (there was a huge, lovely, blind GHO who would call whenever you put a mouse nearby). So hearing the first few notes of the call caused me to stop dead in my tracks, standing with the door wide open, lock in key, completely shocked. I stood looking around at how bright everything is from the full moon, looking at the silhouettes of the trees, and waited...it seemed almost a full minute before it called again, a low, slightly raspy, slow "Hooooo HOOOOO...hoooo...hoooooo." I listened to it one more time before realizing my finger was becoming extremely painful - it seems I may have gotten a bit of frostbite on it from pumping gas in the arctic cold. Faaaannnntastic.
And then it dawned on me how easily I could ID such a species with hardly ever seeing or hearing it...while standing there listening to that call, I pictured in my mind the blind GHO from the center...it's my photographic memory, combined with audio! I'm naturally very visual and can remember things I see for long after I forget their names. I'm also quite aural, and remember sounds long after (I'm also very musical). My memory is a bit weaker on the sounds side, so if I hear the sounds alone when first learning them I might have some trouble learning what it belongs to. But once I see the bird opening it's bill and making noise, I'm bound to remember what that sound belongs to by trying to imagine it later on when I can only hear it. THAT is my trick! And it happens so swiftly and so naturally that it never dawned on me before.