In 2015, an amateur photographer named Martin Le-May captured an astonishing image while walking in a London park with his wife. The photo showed a weasel perched on the back of a woodpecker, as if it were riding it like a horse. The image quickly went viral, with many people speculating about the strange sight they were seeing.
However, despite the fantastical nature of the photo, the explanation for the weasel’s behavior was much more mundane. Weasels are known for being fierce hunters, and will take down prey much larger than themselves. In this case, the woodpecker was likely on the menu, but managed to escape by taking flight.
“The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst,” said Le-May. “I guess our presence, maybe 25 metres 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 weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”
Despite the somewhat disappointing explanation, the photo remains a striking and memorable example of the unpredictable interactions that occur in the natural world. And for those who crave more unexpected animal antics, there’s always the hippo-surfing heron to enjoy!