Weasel Gets The Ride Of His Lifetime While Clinging To The Back Of A Flying Woodpecker; Expert Says It’s Real

Mar 4, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Weasel Gets The Ride Of His Lifetime While Clinging To The Back Of A Flying Woodpecker; Expert Says It’s Real

Mar 4, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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woodpecker
Photo by Martin Le-May

East London resident, Martin Le-May captured a once in a lifetime event while visiting Hornchurch Country Park with his wife in hopes that she would be able to see a green woodpecker for the first time. They were not disappointed. After hearing a distressed squawk, which was promptly followed by a quick green flash. He pointed the bird out to his wife as they both focused their binoculars on the bird, still unclear of all that they were in store for.

Le-May watched the bird thrash around for a moment and as he was switching from his binoculars to his camera, the bird took flight. At this point, Le-May realized the bird was attempting to fly away from a predator. Now able to take a good look at the flying bird, he noticed the bird’s attacker, a wily weasel, was now clinging to the bird’s back as it flew through the air.

YouTube video

He described the spectacle to ITV:

“…As we walked we heard a distressed squawking and I saw that flash of green…Both of us trained our binoculars and it occurred that the woodpecker was unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface. 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.”

woodpecker1
Photo by Martin Le-May

Le-May told the press the woodpecker landed in about 25 meters in front of him and his wife. As the weasel was taking in it’s new surroundings, it became distracted by the couple. The woodpecker used the opportunity to fly away to safety, this time sans weasel. “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.”

And in case you wondering, the average weight of a weasel varies between 1.3 to 8.8 oz for a male or 1.0 to 4.1 oz for a female. A typical green woodpecker weighs in at 6½-8 oz. It is not uncommon for a weasel to eat birds, but this particular weasel’s dinner date had an incredibly rare surprise in store for him.

UPDATE: As this image makes it’s way around the internet, there have been many acquitstions that it is “fake”. While I personally can not vouch for it’s authenticity, an expert image researcher by the name of Hany Farid has stepped forward and says the image is most likely real. National Geographic shared his findings, here. Farid’s Dartmouth University lab has been “focused on developing techniques for detecting photo tampering” for the past 16 years. He is also the co-founder of Fourandsix Technologies and  izitru.com, two websites which provide users with a means of analyzing a photo for authenticity.

Photo by Martin Le-May
Photo by Martin Le-May

Given the manner in which the weasel is “hugging” the woodpecker, Farid says it would be very difficult to forge. “This would have required a nearly perfect and coincidental alignment of the two animals in their original photos so that they could be composited together,” said Farid. “This type of forgery is therefore more difficult to create than, for example, two animals simply standing side-by-side.”

There are also no visible differences in the lighting, focus, etc between the two animals. There are also several other photos of the pair flying through the air, that Le-May has made public. (Check out the ITV link to see them). Farid concluded, “Combined, I don’t see any evidence that the photo is not real.

[ via ITV | National Geographic ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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9 responses to “Weasel Gets The Ride Of His Lifetime While Clinging To The Back Of A Flying Woodpecker; Expert Says It’s Real”

  1. Norman Fox Avatar
    Norman Fox

    amazing!

  2. HyperJ Avatar
    HyperJ

    Call me a skeptic… But that’s a fake.

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      You’re not the only one that suspects this. For what it’s worth, NatGeo did, too. They asked Hany Farid, an expert who has spent the last 16 years working on techniques used to detect photo tampering at Dartmouth. He thinks this photo is the real deal.

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150303-weasels-woodpeckers-animals-science-weaselpecker-photos/

      1. HyperJ Avatar
        HyperJ

        There are supposedly more pictures of this event, but I haven’t seen any.

        What makes me skeptical is A) the pose and B) the lack of motion blur. This looks like something staged, with lines (or whatever) removed in post. The NatGeo article seems to discuss whether or not the weasel was ‘shopped in, but this *looks* like an in-camera fake to me.

        1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
          Tiffany Mueller

          Hmm, that’s an interesting and valid perspective. I’m not ruling it out. =D

          The other photos are shown on the ITV article. http://www.itv.com/news/2015-03-02/incredible-image-shows-weasel-flying-on-woodpeckers-back/

        2. Erik R.s.P Avatar
          Erik R.s.P

          I´m not telling that you are wrong. But in point a) why would you have motion blur with a fast shuter speed like 1/1000?

  3. Dave Egan Avatar
    Dave Egan

    Wow

  4. Chovek Avatar
    Chovek

    One way to prove that your photo is real (hasn’t been photoshopped) and that it happened on a definite time (server verified) is to make Proofy photos with that new free mobile app Proofy: https://getproofy.com/

    It can’t detect existing photos (forensics, photoshop), but we guarantee the ones made through the app.

    Here is the explainer for how it works: https://getproofy.com/site/story
    It saves photos in the app, on the server (if you upload it) and .JPG formats in your phone gallery.

    We at Innologica Ltd. – Next Generation Enterprise Solutions would be glad for any feedback for this app (we develop it for you). http://innologica.com/

  5. Hugo Yip Avatar
    Hugo Yip

    One real brave weasel.I am relieved that the bird escaped.