Usually, when you see a weasel on the back of a woodpecker, the weasel is enjoying a meal. In the picture above, however, we have a weasel hitching a ride through the skies of London, England.
The National Post is reporting what most likely happened, which was that the weasel, which is by nature a scavenger, was robbing the woodpecker’s nest for eggs to eat. The green woodpecker surprised the weasel, and a skirmish ensued. When the weasel pounced upon the back of the woodpecker, the woodpecker took to flight, essentially trapping the weasel on the woodpecker’s winged back.
Amateur photographer Martin Le-May and his wife, Ann, were present for the entire scene, and Le-May was able to get the photo above. Le-May later posted his photo, and it was shared by avid bird-watcher Joseph Ward. Soon after, the photo went viral.
For his part, Le-May said he and his wife were enjoying a walk through Hornchurch Country Park in eastern London when they both heard what sounded like an animal in distress.
“The bird flew across us and slightly in our direction; suddenly it was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life,” Le-May said via email.
The bird soon landed and began struggling with the weasel, but the weasel seemed distracted by Le-May and his wife, according to the couple, which gave the woodpecker the opening it needed to escape. The woodpecker was able to get off the ground and fly away.
“The woodpecker left with its life,” Le-May said. “The weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”
The BBC is reporting that Le-May is both appreciative and astounded by the response his photograph has been received.
“It’s almost a dream that you take a photograph that lots and lots of people not only look at but like [it].”
He said, “I’m so proud so many people are getting to see my image. I’m totally taken aback by the response to it.”
However, there are naysayers that the photo is faked or Photoshopped. That has been refuted, as well. Wildlife expert Lucy Cook, who called the photo a “truly extraordinary image,” says, though this is rare, it does happen.
“The green woodpecker is a ground-feeding bird, but weasels normally attack rabbits. The woodpecker is not its usual prey.
But weasels are fearless.
A female weasel weighs less than a Mars Bar but is as ferocious as a lion, so this is why the woodpecker would have been able to take off with it on its back.”
Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall echoed Cook’s sentiment. Backshall stated that a woodpecker can carry up to 850 times its weight, so it can easily fly off with a weasel on its back.
“The weasel is pretty fascinating as well. It can kill things much bigger than itself, so it’s an impressive little creature when you think about its size,” Backshall said.
The photo has been shared around the internet, and already turned into memes. So, enjoy the fame of the weaselpecker (your laugh here) while it lasts.
[Image courtesy of Martin Le-May/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]