Well, the news is good and bad, depending on how you look at it. At least we know the causes of some of the problems now; whether we DO anything about them is up to our elected officials, which is painful to contemplate. Let’s start with bats. For a long time, it wasn’t certain if the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome was the cause of the problem, or just an opportunistic infection after the mystery agent did its work. Now it’s pretty much known that the fungus IS the cause. See http://www.sciencenews.org/index/generic/activity/view/id/339806/title/Bat_killer_is_still_spreading for more info. As I’ve said before, I like bats because they’re fascinating, and highly evolved to a speciality, and because I like caves, and because bats eat lots of mosquitoes that otherwise really love to bite ME. People should hire me to stand around their backyard barbecues, over in a corner somewhere, so no one else gets a disease. I just taste good to the little boogers; doesn’t matter if I use fresh garlic in my cooking masterpieces, which I do, or take vitamin B1, they still flock to me anyway.
Mosquitoes are vectors for malaria, West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever, and are now known to transmit Lyme disease as well. With an estimated 5-7 million bats already having succumbed to white-nose syndrome in eastern North America so far, and with it spreading west and having crossed the Mississippi, that makes me want to stay indoors, and I rather like the outdoors. Bats eat a lot of plant pests as well, which helps farmers, and add to that the relatively unsung role they play as pollinators of crops; well, we need to be figuring out something to do to help the cute and sometimes ugly and always weird little critters.
Speaking of pollinators, recent Harvard studies have finally shown that pesticides ARE responsible for colony collapse disorder (CCD) in bees, whether in native bumblebees or in introduced honeybees that came over with the first Europeans. See http://www.occupymonsanto360.org/2012/04/07/harvard-scientists-prove-pesticide-causes-ccd/. I wonder how genetically engineered, or even natural crops, are going to deal without bees and bats to pollinate them. We might have to invent tiny little nanobots to do the job instead…I feel a depressing science-fiction novel coming on; hope I don’t have to really write it.
As far as birds go, since they’re in the title, well, West Nile almost wiped out my favorite and totem bird, the crow, about ten years ago, but they’re back! I missed the morning chorus of raspy calls for a long time. The resistant ones have bred, and now the population has come back somewhat, so with any luck, bats will do the same. Birds are less important as pollinators, but they spread seeds in their poop and help plants survive that way. There’s a website with audio of the corvids: crows, ravens, jays, and the like, that I like to visit. Playing the calls freaks out my cats, so I do it on purpose sometimes, and I also play them when there are crows around my place, just to see if it’ll provoke a reaction. They have different dialects in different regions, as whales and dolphins do. Check it out at http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/sounds/sounds.html. A great book is Mind of the Raven, 2000, by Bernd Heinrich, an animal behaviorist who studied them in depth.
And finally we come to frogs, sort of the popularity-contest winners on here every time. While bats and frogs both are plagued by different fungi, not human-caused (although climate change may well be altering environments to shift boundaries of exposure), frogs are not only subject to chytrid fungus, but also various pesticides and herbicides. A new study shows that glyphosate is bad news for amphibians, who are already in trouble. See http://www.organicauthority.com/blog/organic/careful-kermit-monsantos-roundup-creating-mutant-frogs/ for more info. Also, remember that April 22nd is Earth Day, and April 28th is Save the Frogs Day. Do something positive.