It was time to head for the highlands. We left via the perimeter of the Yala National Park. picking up new birds at a few roadside stops. Several Woolly Necked Storks, the last of the three flowerpeckers on the list – Thick Billed, and Great Tit were the notable.
Climbing into the hills we stopped at the beautifully located Ella Rest house. It is always a pleasant place to take morning coffee and cakes, with its panoramic views down to the coastal lowlands. Crested Goshawk and Changeable Hawk Eagle soared overhead. Next en route stop was the Surrey Tea Estate but the stake out Brown Wood Owl only gave fleeting views. We pushed on to Nuwara Eliya, arriving in time for lunch. The only Rufous Bellied Hawk Eagle of the trip soared over the road as we approached the town.
Described as a cross between Surrey and the Lake District, this hill station town is situated at over 6000 feet so has a climate that is a welcome relief to us north Europeans.
The ‘very english’ Victoria Park with its well manicured lawns and neat flower beds is the main birding site here. As well as being a good location for Indian Pitta (we saw several), the main quarry is the stunning Pied Thrush, a Himalayan breeder which winters almost exclusively here in Sri Lanka. We found half a dozen of these superb thrushes – five males and a female – feeding in the leaf litter in the stream which runs through the park. A Forest Wagtail accompanied them. Kashmir Red Breasted Flycatcher is another target bird here too, as seeing it on the breeding grounds is decidedly difficult these days. We found one or two individuals.
Indian Blue Robin is another species found here and we managed to see a male of this beautiful species.