The photos captured by Martin Le-May, a casual photographer from East London, show a baby weasel enjoying what looks like magical ride on a woodpecker’s back. The truth behind the sweet footage is a bit more sinister.
It looks like something from a fairy-tale story, a woodpecker giving a ride to a cute little baby weasel, but the baby weasel and woodpecker are actually in a fight for their lives. The hungry little weasel wants to make a meal out of the woodpecker, and the woodpecker simply wants to live to see another day.
Le-May stumbled upon the scene at Hornchurch Country Park. He was enjoying a peaceful stroll around the park with his wife when the pair heard an animal calling out in distress. They looked around and saw the scramble between these two creatures taking place.
Moments later they were spellbound as the woodpecker flew right past the couple with the weasel perched atop the bird’s back. Le-May quickly grabbed for his camera and began taking photos.
Le-May told Business Insider in an email statement, “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.”
After the bird landed, the weasel became slightly distracted by Le-May and his wife. This gave the lucky woodpecker a chance to escape with his life, flying up into the surrounding trees and out of sight.
The weasel lost this round: Woodpecker: 1, Weasel: 0. Le-May wrote, “The woodpecker left with its life. The weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”
Weasels, as their name suggest, are notorious for robbing nests. It is very likely that is exactly what this baby weasel was up to, although he didn’t expect the woodpecker to put up such an incredible fight.
The photos were originally shared by bird-enthusiast Jason Ward, who tweeted a photo of the weasel catching a ride. While people at first assumed the two were best pals, the real story was quick to come out as the photo went viral.
We have all heard of “fight or flight,” but in this rare instance fight and flight kicked in together. The pair was heard and seen fighting before the woodpecker took off into the sky, at which point the weasel attached to his back like a dedicated rodeo pro.
Once the woodpecker realized he wasn’t going to shake the weasel in the sky, he landed back down in the tall grass. Here, the two continued to fight until eventually the weasel gave up and fled the scene.
The bird is believed to be a European green woodpecker, a shy species of breed that often gains attention through its loud calls. They largely feed on ants found on the ground, as opposed to “drumming” on trees like other woodpecker species. On average, this type of woodpecker measures 210-216 mm in length and has a 320-330 mm wingspan.
Given the size of the woodpecker it is impressive he was able to fly with a baby weasel clinging to his back. According to Steve Backshall, a wildlife presenter, “For the bird to be able to fly is pretty extraordinary, but not unheard of, so I have no reason to doubt it.”