Amazing images of woodpecker flying with a weasel on its back go viral
Wildlife experts have given their support to an astonishing photograph showing a woodpecker flying through the air with a weasel clinging to its back.
The image of the wide-eyed bird and its stowaway was apparently taken by photographer Martin Le-May at a nature reserve in Essex.
Mr Le-May was walking at the Hornchurch Country Park with his wife, Ann, in the hope of showing her a green woodpecker.
After hearing "distressed squawking" he says he spotted the bird with the small mammal on its back, and took a series of photographs as the startled pair flew past.
One photograph has become a viral hit on social media, triggering a variety of creative memes with characters such as Russian president Vladimir Putin, the wizard Gandalf and even Disney character Buzz Lightyear all apparently riding with the bird.
Mr Le-May is adamant that his photograph is real.
He told ITV News that he saw the woodpecker "unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface", and that when it flew past him "it was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life".
After it landed near him and his wife he believes the weasel became distracted and the woodpecker seized its opportunity, "gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight".
He added: "The woodpecker left with its life, the weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry."
Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall says he thinks the picture is genuine. He told the BBC's Newsbeat: "For the bird to be able to fly is pretty extraordinary, but not unheard of, so I have no reason to doubt it."
Backshall suggested the weasel was probably trying to attack the bird, adding: "The weasel is pretty fascinating. It can kill things much bigger than itself, so it's an impressive little creature in itself when you think about its size."
There have been a few memes uploaded since the original which are pretty good, too.