Golden Wings and Hairy Toes

Golden Wings and Hairy Toes: Encounters With New England’s Most Imperiled Wildlife

The first book by natural history writer Todd McLeish profiles fourteen of New England’s most endangered flora and fauna — mammals, birds, insects, plants, and fish — by following the biologists who are researching, monitoring, and protecting them. Each chapter includes a first-person account of the author’s experience with these experts, as well as details about the species’ life history, threats, and conservation strategies. Todd traps bats in Vermont and lynx in Maine, gets attacked by marauding birds in Massachusetts, and observes the metamorphosis of dragonflies in Rhode Island. He visits historical cemeteries to see New England’s rarest plant, tracks sturgeon in the Connecticut River, and observes a parade of one of the rarest mammals on earth, the North Atlantic right whale, in Cape Cod Bay.

Golden Wings and Hairy Toes clearly demonstrates that each rare species has an important story to tell about the causes of its population decline, the obstacles each face in rebuilding a sustainable population, and the people who go to extraordinary lengths to give these species a chance to thrive.


What They’re Saying

Book List

“[McLeish’s] combination of firsthand reporting and background science is irresistible and will leave the reader caring about the ultimate fate of each species.”

Bird Watcher’s Digest

“By focusing on specific species, McLeish is able to delve deeply into the subtleties of each…. One can’t help but appreciate his breadth of knowledge about the natural world, which becomes evident as he draws connections among a wide range of plant and animal species…. McLeish illuminates the plight of each of the profiled species and is acutely sensitive to the broad-ranging impact — whether advantageous or destructive — that human beings can have on endangered wildlife. His stories will leave even the most focused birder concerned not only for the birds discussed in the book, but for the other rare and beautiful wildlife species described as well.”

Massachusetts Wildlife Magazine

“While hundreds of books have been published on the plight of endangered species, few authors have managed to master the genre as well as Todd McLeish has done with Golden Wings and Hairy Toes…. McLeish provides a very personal, thorough, and authoritative account of the natural history of his selected species, including their appearance and behavior, what factors caused their decline, and what is being done to reverse that decline. A must have’ book for any New England wildlifer, it offers a clear understanding of not only the problems the species must face, but also of the difficulties the scientists must deal with as they attempt to secure the future of these rare plants and animals. It will be a useful reference for many years to come.”

South County Independent

“In enlightening but unsentimental prose, yet with an underlying sense of wonder and passion for the creatures that share our planet, McLeish fleshes out the mysterious, secret lives of threatened species and gives us a glimpse at the people who spend their days improving the chances of survival for these imperiled animals.”

Northern Woodlands

“Todd McLeish takes the reader on a lively and enlightening adventure with field biologists working to better understand the natural history, ecology, habitat requirements,and conservation status of 14 of New England’s rarest plants and animals…. He treats the reader to the nuances and subtleties that make each of these 14 species unique — as well as the people who study them — and in the process provides plenty of reasons to, as he says, ‘help postpone permanently the day that they, like the heath hen, disappear entirely.”