The now-viral image of a weasel riding on the back of a woodpecker is not photo-shopped, according to wildlife experts.
The image was taken by amateur photographer Martin Le-May at Hornchurch Country Park in east London on Monday, according to a BBC report.
Mr. Le-May was talking a stroll with his wife Ann when he caught sight of the bird squawking in distress. “I soon realized it was a woodpecker with some kind of small mammal on its back,” said Le-May to BBC News.
Just as he swapped his binoculars for a camera, the bird flew off with the weasel on its back. Le-May thinks their presence may have momentarily distracted the weasel, and the woodpecker seized upon the fortuitous interruption to fly off the ground and dislodge the weasel.
“The woodpecker left with its life,” said Le-May, and “the weasel just disappeared into the long grass.”
Although the event is incredible, it is not impossible. “A female weasel weighs less than a Mars Bar but is as ferocious as a lion,” said wildlife expert Lucy Cooke to BBC News. “This is why the woodpecker would have been able to take off with it on its back.”
The photo has gained much attention on Twitter and has been shared by thousands of netizens.
“I’m so proud so many people are getting to see my image. I’m totally taken aback by the response to it,” Le-May said.
We’ve reached out to Le-May for additional comment and clarification and will update when we hear back. It’s possible the photos (there are other, blurry shots at ITV) are faked, but we’ve found plenty of evidence that weasels like to prey on birds. Here, for instance, is video of a magpie losing a fight with a weasel (fair warning: this video contains footage of magpie demise):