Ok, maybe the title should be Photographer's first time witnessing baby catch rat.
Baby hawk, that is.
After seeing a fledgling chase squirrels in Tompkins Square last Friday, I finally saw it catch a rat tonight.
Here is the hawk on the prowl in the SE corner of the park, just before sunset.
I'm not sure if this is the same bird that was practicing catching prey on Friday, but the feather pattern on the chest does look very similar:
However, feathers move around and look different from different angles, so the pattern is not always a reliable way to identify an individual bird. At first, I thought the brown spot at the top center of the chest could be an identifying mark, but as you can see in the photo below, that spot is gone (and these photos were taken just a couple of minutes apart).
What a nice, big rat!
The young hawk didn't seem to know what to do once it had the rat, so it waited a few minutes, never releasing its grip on the prize, until the rat passed on and was ready to eat.
But first, the kid must play with its food...
While eating the rat on the ground, a spectator made a sudden movement that spooked the bird, so it took off with the rat, but the rodent seemed a bit too heavy to handle. The hawk ended up dropping the rat on the sidewalk just outside the park on E 7th Street, and flew up to a fire escape to regroup.
It made a few moves indicating it was trying to get back to the rat to retrieve it.
But, after a few swoops around the area, the hawk opted to entertain itself by chasing squirrels around a tree.
Hawk-watching has been fairly dull the last couple of weeks, so I'm really happy to finally see some up-close action in the park.
See more photos on my Flickr page.