A baby weasel took the ride of its life on the back of a woodpecker, and a photographer just appeared to be lucky enough to capture the incredible moment.
Photographer Martin Le-May was on a walk at Hornchurch Country Park in East London on Monday when he heard a distressed call and spotted a woodpecker fall behind some grass. The bird was thrashing, and Le-May and his wife noticed there was an animal on its back. It was a weasel.
“As we walked we heard a distressed squawking and I saw that flash of green. So hurriedly I pointed out to Ann the bird and it settled into the grass behind a couple of small silver birch trees. Both of us trained our binoculars and it occurred that the woodpecker was unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface,” he said.
“Lots of wing flapping showing that gloriously yellow/white colour interspersed with the flash of red head feathers. Just after I switched from my binoculars to my camera 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.”
The photographer added: “The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst. I guess though our presence, maybe 25 meters away, momentarily distracted the weasel. The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left. Quickly the bird gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight. The woodpecker left with its life. The weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”
Wildlife expert Lucy Cooke explained that while they usually attack rabbits, weasels are “fearless” predators and it isn’t totally shocking that one would go after a woodpecker, a ground-feeder.
“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,” Cooke said.