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Photographer tells how he got amazing shot of weasel riding on a woodpecker’s back

It’s the kind of one-off photo every wildlife photographer must dream of getting.

Amateur shooter Martin Le-May lucked out recently when he captured this incredible image of a weasel riding on the back of a green woodpecker.

Taken on Monday in a park close to London, Le-May’s shot quickly went viral after it was posted online, picking up millions of views on news and social media sites around the world. But how did he manage to snap it?

Speaking to the BBC, Le-May said he was out walking with his wife when he heard some “distressed squawking” from across the way.

As any keen wildlife shooter would do in such a situation, Le-May reached for his camera – a Canon 70D DSLR – and reeled off a few shots as the bird took off from the ground (below).

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Martin Le-May

“Initially I just assumed I was taking a photo of a woodpecker in flight, and feeling quite pleased with myself that I was getting a good picture,” Le-May said.

“But then there was this sudden realization that there was something on its back, which was really exciting.”

Wildlife expert Lucy Cooke described the incident captured by Le-May, as well as the photo itself, as “extraordinary.”

“The green woodpecker is a ground-feeding bird, but weasels normally attack rabbits. The woodpecker is not its usual prey,” she told the BBC.

While weasels are known for their brazenness, it’s a safe bet this particular one wasn’t expecting the ride of a lifetime when it attacked the bird. Having said that, the bird can hardly have expected a weasel to jump on its back, either.

If you’re wondering what became of the put-upon woodpecker, the good news is that it got away.

“They crash landed a little in front of us,” Le-May said. “We probably startled the weasel, and the woodpecker flew off into the bushes, and off up into a tree.”

As for Le-May’s snapping skills, the sharp shooter evidently had his camera at the ready, a lesson to all wannabe wildlife photographers on the hunt for that magical moment that nature sometimes throws right in front of our eyes.