31 July : Sierra María

'Once more into the breach!' must be the war cry of the Arboleas Group, stern stuff they are indeed, as they headed for the hills again in a vain attempt to avoid the heat. I shall be going down to the Guadalhorce tomorrow early in what will probably be a vain attempt to see everything before heat stroke, heat haze and le cafard (a French expression) and trusting that I will not meet the identification sage of the Guadalhorce (no clues but it's a Brit and it's not Bob nor myself) but the wader migration season is upon us and anything could turn up early on.
I like the sound of (and I quote) 'Chaffinches and Rock Buntings taking the waters'. Sounds like a spa! Harrogate or Bath? 
You lot spend a lot of time taking coffee and refreshments. I wish we had a place for a coffee down at the Guadalhorce. Super shot of the male Crossbill, what a lovely colour he is!
Again we headed for the mountains to avoid the heat. Gilly and I, together with Ros and husband, Roger, met up with Adrian, Tony, Kas, Colin, Sandra, Rod and Linda at the garage cafe in Maria. After a coffee and chat we headed up to the chapel area. Not a lot around till we got to near the water trough. First arrivals saw a glimpse of a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying into and out of the poplar tree. There were numerous Chaffinches and Rock Buntings taking the waters. House Martins and Barn Swallows were above us or low flying over the fields. No sign of the Golden Orioles. The weather at this time was kind. Yes, it was sunny, but there was a nice cool breeze.

On the way up the advance party added a Blue Tit, whilst the rearguard spotted a juvenile Southern Grey Shrike. Once we entered the Botanical Gardens there were plenty of birds. Seeing them was a different matter! Luckily, being desperate for water, most were hanging around the small man-made pools. There were numerous Crossbills, but also Cirl Buntings, Serin and Chaffinch. Further along, on the lower walk, we had good views of Bonelli's Warbler. Some of the group saw a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers. Also seen were Coal Tit and a pair of high flying Griffon Vulture. We then made our way to the La Piza forest restaurant for refreshments. Again there were Crossbills and Chaffinches hanging around the water sources. Only added Great Tit to the list.
Driving down towards the plain, we had a brief stop at the farm buildings, seeing distant Griffon Vultures and a Crested Lark. A Swallowtail Butterfly showed well. On the plain itself, by the roadside we saw Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear and a Calandra Lark. Eventually we reached the hamlet. At first we thought all the Lesser Kestrels had gone, but I spotted a Kestrel sp., presumed Lesser, sitting atop a stack of straw bales. 
Lunchtime was upon us so we returned to La Piza. As we were leaving Colin spotted a passing Booted Eagle. Another Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen. We had good views of "Spanish" Squirrels. We saw a Red-rumped Swallow on our way past Velez Blanco.

27 species seen. It was agreed that group outings will be suspended in August, but that doesn't mean there'll be no reports. I'll be out and about on my lonesome seeing what's around.

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