Today was moving on day, but not until breakfast time had handed Crested Treeswift over the valley. With all bags stowed into the back seating area of Martin's Land Rover, he again drove us gingerly down the wonderfully uneven track towards the village. This was just as bumpy as the ride up, but conducted in brilliant warm sunshine. We did stop on the way to pick up a trio of Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, in the company of a couple of Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots.
Once at the village, Jaya fetched his car while Jith and I made a second attempt at Green-billed Coucal. This could have been a different place from the rain lashed torrent we paddled through the previous afternoon, with sun instead splashing the leaves on the trees. This may have been the reason for the Green-billed Coucal we saw to be found so easily. It was sunning itself on the outer branches of a nearby tree, and just above eye level for good measure.
Back on the road again, and another stop was made a short distance from the village, ostensibly to identify an overhead raptor. This turned out to be Crested Honey Buzzard, but also unveiled a few extra tantalising birds. A dapper White-bellied Drongo showed no fear on the wires above, as did a calling Yellow-fronted Barbet and Purple-rumped Sunbird. We watched these birds to the bemusement of a couple of the locals, one a horrendously elderly fellow who seemed more intent on trying to stay upright. Overhead were Indian Swiftlets, whose identification from Asian Palm Swifts seemed new to Jith. Thankfully, they obliged by displaying their tail shape convincingly. With them was a Barn Swallow and separate Ashy Woodswallow. The Yellow-fronted Barbet calls were added to by a pair of Brown-headed Barbets, set in trees above the impressive cultivated valley below.
We actually managed a further 10 minutes or so of driving before the next stop. On the left of the road were some quite extensive paddy fields, and I wanted to grab some video of some of the Indian Pond Herons wading around. Once finished, Jith pointed out a pair of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, and while following these, a Brahminy Kite glided into view. The temperature was climbing rapidly by now, but I postponed the return to the comfort of the air-conditioned car to track down some singing Plain Prinias.
Two brief stops were subsequently made before our 5 hour journey to the mountains began in earnest. The first was for a crake which had flapped its way in front of the car to a bank on the opposite side. A short wait pinned down Slaty-legged Crake. The second was for a distant raptor circling over the hills - a Black Eagle is always worth some time.
Just before 3pm, and after countless hundreds of twists and turns on the way to Nuwaraeliya, Jith turned and asked me if we should head for the hotel, or would I mind terribly if we did some birding at Hakgala Botanical Garden first. Sorry, the answer is too obvious! We pulled up alongside a stretch of market stalls and throng of people, with the entrance to the gardens opposite. The fee paid and the guards bypassed, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours walking the manicured paths (well, not always on the paths) and gardens. Most of the visitors seemed to prefer to gather and sit near to the entrance gate, such is the flock mentality of human populations. However, it was here that the first Sri Lanka White-eyes and Cinereous Tit (now separated from Great Tit) were located. Both were to prove common throughout the gardens.
When we ascended the paths a short way, we lost most of the people and started to gain birds. Amongst the first group were Forest Wagtail, Kashmir Flycatcher, and a small party of squabbling Dull-blue Flycatchers. The latter turned out to be numerous today, but the Kashmir Flycatcher was more difficult to track down. Onward and upward, and we added Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Scarlet Minivet, and a trio of calling Yellow-fronted Barbets (in the same tree).
The small area where we had first seen the flycatchers seemed to be one of the most active for the birds, and this thought was verified on return to that spot, adding a small group of Grey-headed Canary-Flycatchers and Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes.
Before the light had abandoned us totally - the afternoon seemed to get visibly murky at around 4.30 - we drove a short way further towards Nuwaraeliya to stop at a favoured location for Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. This is an odd spot for such a shy bird. The running water and accessibility of cover ticked the boxes, but the busy road is only a few metres away, and a path next to the stream and waterfall is often in use by noisy locals. Suffice to say, a couple of false alarms of movement within the dense bushes failed to find the target bird, although my first Indian Blue Robin wasn't a bad substitute.