Gems of Jardin

A male andean cock of the rock perches on a branch at the Cock of the Rock Lek in Jardin, Antioquia, Colombia. There were at least 15-20 of these magnificent birds.

The males were fighting; presumably over this female who, although plainer, is still a magnificent bird by any standard.
Red headed barbet also join in on the action.

Scarlet Lovers

A pair of scarlet macaws court at the botanical gardens in Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia. March 25, 2022. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see them.
They stayed with me for close to an hour, allowing for portrait shots like this one.

To Walk on Water

Portrait shot of a stunning specimen of a green basilisk lizard from La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This species, famous for its ability to run across water, is also called the “Jesus Christ Lizard” for that reason.
A juvenile brown basilisk from Parque Metropolitano in Panma City, Panama.

Rufous Tailed Jacamar

Rufous tailed jacamar are stunning birds by any standard. While they range from Mexico to Brazil, an encounter with one (or several) in the La Fortuna/Arenal area is a near guarantee.
As birds go, they are excellent subjects for photography because they tend to sit still for awhile. I found this one with Chris.
Jacamars feed primarily on insects. They may look a bit like big hummingbirds but are not related to them at all. Their closest kin are puffbirds, like this white necked puffbird from Belize.

Sleepy Face

Parque Metropolitano in Panama’s answer to Central Park. As far as nature goes, it’s even better. The find of the day was definitely this sleeping panamanian night monkey!
It only opened its eyes once, and too quickly for a photo. This cute face exemplifies eveything that is right in such a chaotic and troubled world. Despite the joy of my travels, I have been feeling down again lately. A face like this definitely lifts my spirits.

Parque Metropolitano

A central american agouti wanders the streets of Parque Metropolitano. What is so extraordinary is that this rainforest, loaded with animals of all forms, is right in the center of Panama City, Panama! March 10, 2022.
Gigantic colonies of leafcutter ants are a magnet for numerous bird species…
Whooping Motmot. I am absolutely in love with this unique and striking family of birds.
Lots of squirrel cuckoo, too!
Having mantled howler monkey around doesn’t hurt, either. Not my best photo. Oh, well.
Nine banded armadillo can be elusive, but I got lucky and encountered this one in just a few minutes.

Green Kingfisher

A male green kingfisher calls to its mate at a secret spot in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. March 3, 2022.
The female has no red on its chest. My new friend Kris and I watched the mating ritual for about 5 minutes. Then, the pair flew off.
Ringed kingfisher may look similar, but they are HUGE. The largest species of kingfisher in the Americas.

Northern Tamandua

To say that La Fortuna, Costa Rica has been good to me would be an understatement. I finally got lucky and encountered this incredible and elusive anteater species at Sendoro Bogarin Sloth Trail on February 26, 2022. Better yet, it stuck around all day.
Just as cute (and a lot easier to find): a Central American Agouti.

Barred Antshrike

Costa Rica is filled with amazing birds, and this male barred antshrike is no exception. I went birding with a new friend near my hostel at La Fortuna, and they definitely stole the show IMO.

Not as good a photo on my part, but the female is still one heck of a stunning animal. We attracted them by using an audio recording of a barred antshrike song.

At least 8 showed up….

Great Curassow

Profile shot of a female great curassow at the Arenal Observatory Lodge in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. February 27, 2022.
While superficially similar to turkeys lifestyle and size wise, they are in their own family.
The male looks drastically different, but is still a stunning animal by any standard.
Bird feeding Central American style! Birds with the yellow tail are called montezuma orapendola.
Spectacular backdrop of legendary Arenal Volcano.

Life in the Slow Lane

Ran into this three toed sloth as it was scratching its belly near the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Like most sloths, it was taking a nap.
…and an equally (if not even more) lazy two toed Sloth the following morning at nearby Hacienda Baru Lodge, a quieter and less touristy alternative. Life in the slow lane. I am jealous.

Lying in wait

An adult spectacled caiman basks near a small tributary at Hacienda Baru Nature Reserve. Domincal, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. February 20, 2022.
They are small for crocodilians, topping out at around 2.5 meters (8 feet). This one is around 1.8 meters (6 feet).
Still, they are formidible predators, and these capuchin monkeys (especially the youngsters) need to be careful!

Red Legged Honeycreeper

A male red legged honeycreeper at Finca San Luis near Monteverde, Costa Rica. February 17, 2022. These amazing birds feed on insects and nectar. I highly recommend coming to San Luis if in the Monteverde area. It is an overlooked gem.

Finding waves (and birds!)

The incredible backdrop of a sunrise over the ocean at Monterrico, on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. The beach is popular with surfers and with people who just want to chill.
I certainly DID chill, but I also went birding. As luck would have it, I ran into a couple of white throated magpie jay, a species VERY high on my Central American wish list!
I had been hoping to find one since November, so it was a wish well worth waiting for!

Flying Flame

A male flame colored tanager; I had looked for one for several months, but the species eluded me until I got lucky at Atitlan Nature Reserve in Panajachel, Guatemala.
Can you blame me for seeking an encounter with this bird? I think not!
There was more than enough peace and spleandor to keep me in Lake Atitlan for a week! I highly recommend staying in San Pedro or San Marcos.

Just roast it!

January 20, 2022; Roasting marshmallows on a tour of Pacaya Volcano, located about an hour’s drive from the backpacking hub of Antigua, Guatemala!
The ashfields of this active volcano are nature’s perfect stove!

The Emerald Forest

The lighting isn’t in my favor, but this male resplendent quetzel was well worth my journey to Biotopo Quetzal near Coban, Guatemala. The encounter was fleeting, but amazing.
They don’t call it a cloud forest for no reason, and because of the elevation and heavy rainfall, it can get quite chilly!
A series of splendid waterfalls adds to the ambiance and tranquility. It is sad that most backpackers don’t stop here. Most never hear about Coban or Biotopo Quetzal at all.
More green birds: emerald toucanets!

The 4 Ts…

T is for Tikal, the centerpiece of Mayan culture in Guatemala and, in my opinion, the best of the 15 or so ruins that I have visited so far. January 10, 2022.
T is for Toucan. There’s plenty of them to be found at Tikal.
T is for turkey. Ocellated turkeys are highly regarded in Guatemalan/Mayan culture. At first sight, some mistake them for peacocks. Understandably so. They can be elusive but if you want to find them, Tikal is a darn good place to start.
T is for trogan. Smaller relatives of the quetzal, slaty tailed trogan will still leave any nature enthusiast more than satisfied. Yet another reason to visit Tikal.

That Foxy Feeling

This gray fox was a welcome surprise at the Grand Plaza at Tikal National Park in Peten Department, Guatemala. In general, mammals are more elusive than birds so seeing something like this is a privilege. He is as curious about the ruins as the human tourists!
Ditto for this spider monkey…
And this young howler monkey, although with their loud calls, this species is anything but inconspicuous!

Vermilion Flycatcher

I dunno about you, but from where I stand, I don’t think there’s many birds that can rival the beauty of a mature male vermilion flycatcher. Crooked Tree Wildlife Reserve, Belize.
Beautiful as vermilion flycatcher are, they are not the main reason I went to Crooked Tree. This jabiru stork, the tallest flying bird in the Americas, was.
Still, I can easily watch vermilion flycatcher all day long….

Cockscomb Lovers

A pair of red lored parrots at Cockscomb Nature Reserve in Stann Creek, Belize. Because I was in a group, the day proved to be more about hiking and waterfall swimming than birding. Still, I got my shots in.
Who could possibly complain about a view like this? Cockscomb has Jaguars as well, but they are notoriously difficult to spot.

The Frenzy

Dozens of nurse sharks, some of which were 7-8 feet long, line up to grab some sardines. They are accompanied by horse eyed jacks. Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Caye Caulker/San Pedro, Belize. January 4, 2022.

A bonus when observing the nurse sharks are southern and short tailed stingrays. They are very inquisitive and friendly. Just don’t step on one. Shark/Ray Alley. January 5, 2022.

The Aspie ray-mad.

Collared Aracari

Collared Aracari are a small species of Toucan. Today, they stole the show at the Xuantunich ruins near San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize.
Nibbling away on fruits. There were six birds in total and they stuck around for awhile.
You can see the Guatemalan border from the top.

The Water Pheasant

A bit delayed, but here is a picture of a pheasant tailed jacana from South Korea’s Upo Wetlands on July 17, 2021. Certainly one of the most unique birds you will ever encounter.

There were actually three that day. The huge feet are perfect for walking across the lily pads. They migrate to Korea in summer from Southeast Asia.
Crested Ibis went extinct in South Korea around 1979/80 but are being successfully bread and reintroduced at Upo.

The antigen life

Yesterday evening, due to my impending flight to Belize, I took a rapid COVID test at a farmacia ahorro in Cancun, Mexico. Whether I like it or (I don’t!) , this is how we live now and how we will continue to live for the forseeable future. Not a bad price at 345 pesos. About 16-17 USD. Results in 7 minutes! The pink line by the letter C means that the test is negative…
Nevertheless, because omicron is so catchy, I do anticipate that, like most people in the world I will have COVID at least once. Is travel still worth it. As this blackhawk from the mangrove forest shows, the answer (in my opinion) is still a resounding YES!
Before Pfizer made its vaccine announcement last November, I doubted that I would be able to see scenes like this ever again. I am hoping that conditions and regulations are suitable for me to visit Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands in the spring 🙂

Wood Stork

Campeche has been very good to me, due in no small part to the abundance of wood storks nesr the boardwalk at low tide. I have been fortunate enough to get close and take some decent portrait shots.

This one has successfully snagged itself some lunch in the form of a small fish.

Painted Bunting

Not QUITE the photo quality I was hoping for, but the colors on this male (very aptly named) painted bunting more than make up for it! The female, by contrast, is a plain olive green but still a very beautiful bird by any standard.
The Ezdna Archaeological Zone is WELL worth the visit if you are in Campeche, whether you want to look for painted bunting or not. It is very quiet, admission is a very reasonable 60 pesos (about 3 USD) and, barring the Grand Acropolis (pictured here) you can climb all the ruins.

Life in the ruins

Was lucky to come across a troupe of about 20 or so Central American Spider Monkeys at the Calakmul Archaeological Zone in Campeche, Mexico yesterday. Though not in this picture, there were also some babies as well!
Being able to get photos like these was a privilege. Finding mammlals (apart from squirrels) usually takes a lot of work, and a bit of luck.
The birds did not disappoint, either. This is a black headed trogan, a smaller member of the quetzal family.
Slaty tailed trogan. Was my first time seeing this species.
A view of the spectacular structure #2 while standimg atop structure #7. In my opinion, if you are going to choose any one ruin to go to while in Mexico, choose this one. It has the grandeur and spectacle of chichen itza without the crowds (and the annoying merchants).
The way up (or down) from structure #7 . Sadly, most backpackers (and most people who don’t have cars) leave Calakmul off their itinerary, if they have even heard of it.

Between the LONG drive from your hotel and admission fees, it ends up coming to about the same as a day at Chichen Itza. If I had to choose between the two, the winner is Calakmul. Hands down. You can’t climb the ruins at Chichen Itza, either.

If the eyes have it

An osprey gazes down at a beach near the famous Tulum ruins in Quintana Roo, Mex.
Getting this close to a wild bird of prey is always a privilege. Tragically, Nikon has discontinued the P900s. I am exceedingly lucky to have one.
The ruins themselves are as touristy as touristy gets, but still worth visiting.

Belated Thanksgivimg

It is turkey time at Mexico’s Coba Ruins, about 45 minutes from Tulum! Ocellated Turkey, that is. Had been looking for one for several weeks. The wait was definitely worth it!

They look, at least to me, like a turkey + peacock + toad. They are also not exactly shy. At least this one was not! Came right up to me.
Trying (unsuccessfully) to do the tail feathers justice! The eye spots on the tail give this threatened species its name.

Alligator River

It is little wonder that the Spanish settlers who came to the Yucatan gave Rio Lagartos its name, which translates to “Alligator River.” Except, there are no alligators at Rio Lagartos. This is an American Crocodile. They can exceed 15 feet (4.6 meters), but this one is more like 8 feet (2.5 meters).
This morelet’s crocodile is about 8 feet long as well, but is close to the maximum size for the species. You are almost guaranteed an encounter with one in Rio Lagartos. Sadly, some of the operators attempt to touch and feed these wild (and potentially dangerous) aninals. A move that I feel is extremely unwise.

Roadside Hawk

I love getting good shots of birds of prey, as they have always been a personal favorite. This roadside hawk is no exception. Sian Ka’an biosphere. Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Looks quite poised. I wouldn’t want to be a small mammal or snake with this fellow around.

The origin of the skies

Not the best photo thanks to some blurring in the vegetation, but this is a Yucatan Black Howler Monkey on the boardwalk at Sian Ka’an biosphere. Always a privilege to see large mammals, as they can be elusive.
Sian Ka’an is also home to over 300 bird species, many of them strange and unique. Lots of woodcreepers around. This is a ruddy woodcreeper.
Really proud of how this tawny winged woodcreeper came out.
The name Sian Ka’an, in ancient Mayan, means “origin of the skies.” From this view, you can see why this UNESCO world heritage site is exactly that.

El Capitan

An enterprising bare throated tiger heron takes command of an empty panga yesterday.
Was waiting patiently for the right fish to swim by. The heron stuck around until the humans came to reclaim the panga. Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico.

Reddish egret

Perhaps feeling overshadowed by a small group of flamingos a few yards away, this guy felt compelled to put on a show for me yesterday morning. Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico.

As you can see here, it was feeding VERY aggressively. It was also trying to intimidate the other species in the same small pond.
Another individual. Very underrated, and truly kings among birds.

Rosaete Spoonbills

I have seen 4 different spoonbill species in 3 different parts of the world, but roseate spoonbills are definitely my favorite. Looking at their coloration, it is easy to see why!
Like flamingos, which also frequent Rio Lagartos, they get their pink color from the small crustaceans that comprise the bulk of their diet.
While they are feeding, they seem to be very much “in the zone” and so are hard to distract or spook. This means that during low tide, you can get close….
VERY close!!!!!!

American white pelican

Everyone comes to Rio Lagatos for the flamingos, pink water, and salt flats. However, Rio Lagatos also has a supporting cast that should not be overlooked. Among them is the American white pelican.

If there is one word I could use to describe them, it would be “impressive.” They are among the largest flying birds in the world.
They are also great to photograph on the feed. Look at the black on those wing tips. They are absolutely spectacular in flight.
What is NOT to like about these huge birds?!?!? The fish of Rio Lagartos probably don’t care much for them, but I sure do!

Lords of the Mangroves

For most people, Flamingos are the main reason to come to Rio Largatos, on the Northeastern Yucatan. Still, while observing them, do not overlook these spectacular common black hawk.
Black hawk are probably a fish’s worst nightmare. Save, of course, for American Crocodile. This one is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) long.

Squirrel Cuckoo

Not the first time I have seen this species. They are quite common in Mexico’s tropical and subtropical regions.
Still, their unique appearance gets me every single time.
In addition to being criminally underrated, Yucatan’s Mayapan ruins are an excellent place to find these birds, along with many other species.

The Sentry

Spiny tailed iguanas seem to LOVE Mayan ruins. This one sits, almost like a scaly guardian overlooking its home.
Home, in this case, are the Uxmal ruins. Many travelers have come to see them as a less touristy alternative to the much more famous (and more crowded) Chichen Itza. They are about an hour and a half bus ride from Yucatan’s capital, Merida.
It’s definitely crowded with spiny tailed iguanas, though!

Flamingo Flamenco

Part of a group of about 150 greater flamingos at Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan. November 25, 2021.
From a smaller group that I encountered later on.
American white pelican with laughing gulls.
An aptly named boat billed heron.
A bare throated tiger heron stalks its fishy (or froggy) prey in the mangroves.
A beautiful (and also VERY lazy) roseate spoonbill.
Both the flamingos and spoonbills get their coloration by consuming creatures that feed on blooms of algae that turn the waters pink. No wonder Celestun is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Exploring on foot is free, but to see the best stuff, you need to take the boat trip. It costs 1900 pesos, or around 90 dollars, but fear not, budget backpacker. Meeting up with others is easy. Within minutes, I had a group of 5 and we each ended up paying only 400 persos, or 18 USD. Well worth it in my book!


Hello and welcome to “Aspie Nomad,” a new travel blog geared towards people with Asperger’s/autism and other forms of neurodiversity. It is intended to inspire such individuals to “shoot for the stars,” follow their dreams and defy any perceived limitations. It will also have many resources for solo/budget minded travelers and backpackers, as well as nature enthusiasts who are NOT on the autism spectrum. I will start posting more frequently in the summertime.

So; who am I? As I write this, I am a (soon to be) 35 year old expat, teacher, and travel enthusiast. I am from the USA (specifically the New York area) and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. That is the reason for the title of this blog, perhaps a first of it’s kind. The concept came about upon realizing that there were few, if any, travel/backpacking blogs geared towards neurodiverse individuals. I also believe that my story can be a source of hope to others. It has been a long ride. When I was initially classified autistic as a toddler (in the years before an Asperger’s diagnosis was common), my parents were told that I would most likely be unable to live independently.

Through years of education and remediation, I was able to defy expectations, graduate summa cum laude and earn a Master’s Degree at 23. Eventually, my path led me overseas. I have been living and teaching English in Korea (South; not North, just saying because I have been asked that so many times!) for six years. In late August of 2020, I will leave my job (it’s been a long and great ride) and embark on a backpacking journey that could span almost two years. I hope and plan for this adventure to take me around the world. However, I will start in Latin America. Already I have many videos, photos, and stories from various adventures and wildlife encounters that I hope to share with you. Despite how far I have come, I continue to face many of the stresses and challenges that individuals on the spectrum face, and I want to detail how these play out in my day to day life, past travels, and the adventure to come. Thank you for joining the ride.

Monkey see, Monkey Don’t

Manuel Antonio National Park in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, is an excellent place to find wildlife. Still, I have some issues with it. The capucchin monkeys, one of Central America’s most iconic animals, are eating food from the restaurant in the park. Some tourists are also feeding them intentionally.
I didn’t see this squirrel monkey going for hot dogs and soda, but its presence so close to the restaurant was still cause for concern.
The ambience and lack of crowds at Hacienda Baru also makes it better for birdwatching. Among many other species, you can look forward to seeing bare throated tiger heron…

Raptor Country

A barred hawk soars overhead at Finca Ecologica San Luis; about two hours walking distance from Monteverde/Santa Elena, Costa Rica. February 18, 2022.
Barred hawk were not the only bird of prey species I was lucky enough to encounter that day. In fact, there were nine. Among the most impressive was this white hawk.
The main attraction, however, was this nesting ornate hawk eagle. Judging from its movements, the bird had likely made a kill that day. I am satisfied with the photo quality, considering how far away the bird was!
It was impossible to tell what the ornate hawk eagle had killed that afternoon, but large ground dwelling birds like this grey headed chachalachca are as good as the main course. They are certainly abundant!
Ornate hawk eagle in flight. Not my best photo, and certainly can’t do this incredible bird justice. Don’t overlook this place if you come to Monteverde!

Yellow throated toucan

Even if you aren’t into birding per se, toucans are definitely a star attraction for the ecotourist in Central America. From La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
They are also known as chocolate mandibled toucan. From Quepos, Costa Rica.

Black and white owl

I have been fortunate to see and photograph many unique and diverse bird species since I first embraced birding as a hobby about three years ago. Certainly, this resting black and white owl is near the top of the list. I encountered it at the sloth trail in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
An elusive uniform crake.

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