By Tim Todd, 7amkickoff’s chief ornifootbologist
There is a hummingbird who has been my constant companion at work for over a year. Every day when I come in to work he’s there in his tree chirping at me. And sometimes I even see him in the flower bush near the entrance flitting around, sipping nectar, while students trudge by with their Beats on oblivious to the small wonder just inches away.
He was gone for a few days, for over a week actually, and I was starting to worry. I imagined the worst: his tiny body, feathers dulled from the dust, lying unnoticed in the dirt somewhere. Or maybe, I hoped, he’d simply found a mate finally and moved off to her nest. I was still sad, though, because I’d seen the same bird every day for over a year and it felt like a real loss.
Over the last few days I’d seen other birds crowding his perch, there was a robin up there a few days ago and as I came into work yesterday there was a damn starling near his favorite perch. His tree was packed full of those ugly, vulgar, immitative creatures. If the hummingbird, who lives alone, stays rooted to one area, stands up for himself, and does his own thing, is a beautiful little creature, starlings are the exact opposite — they live in vast packs, they imitate other creatures, they are ugly, and they wet their nests. Well, ok, I’m not sure about that last part.
I thought about throwing some rocks at the starling. He wasn’t on my hummingbird’s perch, just near it. And I thought that maybe if I could scare him off I would get my friend back. But if I threw a rock I’d probably only hit a parked car.
Still, I had this penny in my pocket and I was turning that over in my hand and thinking about it like some common hooligan at a football match, ready to throw a coin down on my hated enemy. But just before I could lose my mind I heard the hummingbird song. Hummingbirds sing a song that sounds like birdsong being played at 78 RPM or maybe like an old cassette tape on fast forward. And they kind of make a spitting sound when they don’t like you.
That spitting sound is what I heard and I scanned the sky and trees for my little friend, and sure enough there he was confronting the starling, buzzing around him angrily, and squawking. I don’t know if you’ve ever been confronted by an angry hummingbird but they basically don’t care how big you are and they will fly around you squawking at you and scowling. They have a scowl. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve seen one sipping nectar calmly until he saw me, then he flew behind a branch, looked around at me, saw that I was looking at him and scowled. Needless to say, after a few seconds of harassment, the starling flew off and the hummingbird landed on his favorite branch.
One thing you might not know is that hummingbirds like to perch on the very tips of trees. There, they will preen themselves and show off their iridescent colors by flapping their wings in the sun. If you think about it, the hummingbird rests more than he flies. It takes a huge amount of energy to fly the way they do, so the hummingbird can often be found early in the morning, sitting on top of his favorite tree, warming his engines in the morning sun.
in morning’s first light
hummingbird flutters his wings
revving his engine
In passing it might seem that this is an ostentatious display — sitting so high up in the tree and flapping your wings so that they glint in the sunlight, but it’s not pretentious. Hummingbirds perch on the tips of trees because they can. It is the suchness of the hummingbird that where a normal bird might bend the branch and fall over the tiny little hummingbird finds the smallest perches perfect. High above all the others, showing off his green and ruby coat for all to see, calling out his bird song loud and clear, the hummingbird isn’t showing off, he’s simply being himself.
I think of Santi Cazorla as Arsenal’s little hummingbird. I’ve seen my little friend the hummingbird, literally dart between students as he flies around campus, much the same way that Cazorla weaves between defenders and even his own teammates when he has the ball.
Cazorla can also be a bit showy. Not in the same way that the hummingbird does, what with a coat of iridescent green, but his dance celebration after the Giroud goal against Man City reminded me of the hummingbird flapping his wings in the morning sun.
And just like the hummingbird, Cazorla is tough and fearless. He’s not afraid to take on a starling like City’s Fernandinho, or Chelsea’s Matic — they may be bigger, but he’ll still scowl and chirp at them, and can out maneuver them on the pitch. Some lumbering starling like Matic can’t catch Santi Cazorla, that’s why Matic hides in his flock and Cazorla flies free. And Cazorla doesn’t shrink when he’s tackled by the Joey Bartons who like the robins of the world, tend to be just fat birds mostly confined to grubbing around in the dirt for a living. Despite his small frame and the fact that he takes on these bigger opponents in one-on-one duels, Cazorla has made over 45 appearances for Arsenal in each of his first two seasons and has (touch wood) rarely been injured. If he continues this trend he will make almost 50 appearances for Arsenal this season. Marking him out as one of Arsene Wenger’s “iron men” over the last three seasons.
Cazorla isn’t the biggest and he’s not the best, but he’s quick and tough, he stands up to bigger opponents without blinking an eye, and every once in a while, if you sit real still and are real quiet, you can see him up on the highest perch, warming himself in the early morning sun.