The Minox Challenge(s)

Minox_HG_Binoculars_Clifton_CamerasBannerWhen I wrote about my 37-year-old binoculars being repaired I didn’t expect this to happen.  I didn’t expect an email from Zeiss thanking me for my loyalty – and I didn’t get one, so that’s OK.  And I didn’t expect an email from Minox saying:

At MINOX GB we keep an eye on the media and enjoy reading blogs and articles from people like yourself. We were interested to see the post on your website last week about your 37 year old pair of Binoculars. We love that you are sentimental about your binoculars and glad that you have them back in one piece! However…
We were wondering if you might be interested in in giving a ‘newbie’ a try? We would love to offer you a pair of MINOX High grade binoculars to trial and see if they can match up to the ones you hold so dear, just for fun and no strings attached! Perhaps if you like them and think it’s worthwhile you could auction them off after the trial for charity or keep them for yourself (at a highly discounted price of course!) Never would we suggest you replace your 18th Birthday present but there is no harm is starting a collection or indeed having a spare pair! 🙂 .

I thought that was very imaginative and so that’s what will happen.  The Minox HG 10x43BR binoculars have arrived and I have looked through them once or twice.  I will post a review of them in early November and then they’ll be auctioned off.  The money raised will go to a wildlife charity of your and my choice.

You, as a reader of this blog, will be able to vote for which wildlife charity gets the few hundred quid raised by the auction. But there is another step. The wildlife charities that will go on the voting list will be those whose Chief Executives avail themselves of this offer: if any of the Chief Executives of the wildlife conservation charities listed below (mostly from Wildlife and Countryside Link) write a Guest Blog on ‘Why [my organisation] deserves the public’s support’ in not more than 1000 words (see below for more details) then their organisation is one of the ones for which readers can vote.  Strikes me that there is nothing much to lose – it’s free advertising and you might get some money from the vote too.  Three chief executives whom I contacted to try out this idea have all already said ‘yes’ so we are going to have a choice.

Calling the CEOs (or equivalent) of these charities: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Badger Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Hawk and Owl Trust, the Mammal Society, Marine Conservation Society, MarineLife, the National Trust,  People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, Pond Conservation (Freshwater Habitats Trust), RSPB, Salmon and Trout Association, the Shark Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, Worldwide Fund for Nature-UK, Woodland Trust.

The Guest Blog must arrive at as a Word Document with up to 1000 words by 6pm on 11 November.  Also send a .jpg photo of yourself to go with the Guest Blog.  You can use only one hyperlink – perhaps to your organisation’s website – in the Blog (because that cuts down the amount of work for me!).  The subject of your Guest Blog is ‘Why [your organisation] deserves the public’s support’.  You may write whatever you like provided it is not defamatory of others and you don’t use rude words – I guess those restrictions won’t be too difficult to meet.  It would be kind of you to tell me if you are going to send something, in advance, but you don’t have to do so.

So this is what is happening: I’ll trial these binoculars and post a review of them in the first two weeks of November. Any organisations who want a Guest Blog here, and the chance to be voted as the organisation to receive a little bit of money, should send me their Guest Blog, by their Chief Executive, by 6pm on 11 November. I will post the Guest Blogs (exactly how will depend on how many there are – but they will be posted as separate Guest Blogs for each organisation).  You, the readers, will vote on who gets the money and then we will auction the binoculars.


44 Replies to “The Minox Challenge(s)”

    1. Graeme – conspiracy, if you like! Not a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link which I used as my guide (but, before anyone shouts, nor are the BTO nor GWCT).

      1. Mark, they aren’t? Well, there’s my AGM question sorted! And thanks for bringing the Wildlife and Countryside Link to my attention. Where have I been all this time?

      2. Nor is the World Land Trust a member of Wildlife Link. We are too busy doing conservation to have time to go to meetings…..

        And My Zeiss (8x30s) are over 40 years old (and I have spare pair because the do go out of alignment rather easily). But wouldn’t swap them. Don’t like the ‘feel’ of modern binos even though I use a pair of RSPB specials when travelling. And occasionally I dig out my zeiss 10x50s

          1. Ralph – I thought GWCT and BTO should be there, that’s all. I would have included BASC but, as best as I can tell, they are not a charity.

      3. Two GWCTs? One on your list, and one that’s not a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link? Great idea this btw.

  1. Great Idea but what about the grass rout organisations like natural history societies most of which are now charities for tax reasons. It would also mean you wouldn’t have to write a blog for a very long time!!!

    1. Dennis – glad to hear it! I hope you get lots of great views of lots of great wildlife with them.

    2. Good try Dennis !!

      But Mark – didn’t Chris Packham choose to take his bins on his Desert Island – another chance for a freebie / auction?

  2. Makes me want to start a blog site just to get first dibs on these sorts of freebies. I’m on the market for a telescope, which I dont currently own, any takers? No, thought not.

    1. Bob – well, obviously it is very simple. All you have to do is pay for web-hosting, write a blog every day for years and build an audience and then the world beats a path to your door – once! I’d start now if I were you – good luck!

  3. disappointed with this – you are essentially asking CEO’s to participate in a sales pitch for binoculars. Not participating risks making the CEO look uninterested in promoting their organisation.

    Far better if we promote the challenges we face.

    Like for example the report coming out today (by RSPB, but I believe others have been involved), showing 80% of kids feel disconnected with Nature. I hope each of the CEO’s you list will help deal with this issue instead, which would show people why there support is needed. Moreover this is an issue that is broader than conservation orgs, with the report also being endorsed by the British Heart Foundation and others with an interest in health provision.

    1. David – I’m offering wildlife conservation organisations free advertising of what they are doing for nature. I’m also doing lots of other things on other days.

      In fact what I am doing is giving you, the readers of this blog a choice in which conservation organisation gets a small amount of funding, and them (my chosen conservation and wildlife organisations) free advertising, and Minox some free publicity (which might be bad publicity if I think their binoculars are no good) in return for them being a quite canny outfit who showed a bit of imagination. And it’ll cost me money as I will pay the postage of the binoculars to their eventual new home.

      But you can feel disappointed if you like.

    1. Lancastrian – I’ll leave that to Steph to sort out if she takes up the offer and if the Wildlife trusts win! I did expect that question! You’ve got to be in it to win it. But you can’t lose either – it’s a platform for setting out your wares.

  4. With the “three-year” project reporting today that “only 21% of children aged 8-12 are connected to nature”, the winning NGOs reasoning had better be phenomenally good! The RSPB says “a perception among some adults that nature is dangerous or dirty could be holding children back”. Another own goal? – who exactly have taken it upon themselves, with our money, to communicate natures case?

    One encouraging outcome – girls are reported to be “more likely to be exposed to the great outdoors” so Martha’s suggestion in yesterday’s blog that future leadership should lie with the more caring gender is interesting.

  5. What a great idea Mark, and any NGO in these cash strapped times must be fools for not taking part, you’re right there is no “downsides” they get a chance to reach out via a guest blog to reach out to potential new members, for FREE and a chance to get a few quid in the hamper too.
    I think Minox pulled a neat little pr coup and lets not forget it was their idea, not Mark’s to perhaps auction them off, like their style, but I wish I could use my Zeiss binocular but the weather is so poor I doubt I could see much through them, if only I could be in some warm country..hint,hint 🙂
    But whilst I’m at it my VW Golg is in having it’s turbo replaced….lets hope Ferrari read your blog 🙂

  6. Allegedly connection with nature is badly eroded now but I didn’t realise children had such a great connection with nature in the Past – that great glorious Past when everything was better and rosy and the sun never set on the Birtish Empire.

    In my intake at garmmar school, there were ~120 boys of whom 3 studied botany at A-level and 6 took zoology – the latter in order to get into medical school. As far as I can remember, no-one else was remotely interested in that nature, look, apart from those who went fishing which in sarf Lunnon meant they acquired an intimate knowledge of the sandwich filling of choice of Gobio gobio. Neither was a burning interest in fungi, mosses, liverworts, ferns and grasses something that you felt inclined to brag about when queueing to get into a Yardbirds gig.

    A quick guesstimate involving the proportion of boys going to grammar school and the low proportion of them taking natural science subjects at A-level gets you a very low percentage – if I had a fag packet the number on the back would be 0.6%. If the RSPB are saying that 20% of children today feel connected, then perhaps they should be celebrating, not berating.

    1. “If the RSPB are saying that 20% of children today feel connected, then perhaps they should be celebrating, not berating.”

      A fair point, pointing out the shortcomings of younger generations seems to be a popular exercise these days, that’s a shame. The kids I meet seem pretty clued-up. Certainly the 500+ whippersnappers which I saw at Merefest 13 a few weeks ago didn’t appear be suffering from any disconnect with the natural world.

      Interesting that you had the option of botany and zoology at A-level, at my state comp these were only available as part of a general biology A-level. Perhaps that is indicative of how times have changed. Speaking as a generalist, I think we need less generalists and more specialists.

      P.S, many a fine naturalist started out as a Gudgeon snatcher.

      1. “I think we need … more specialists”

        To make a case for lerning
        When other roads are barred
        Take something very easy
        And make it very hard

    2. Filbert, I tend to agree with the gist of your post and I am at a loss as to what this survey is really saying. As far as I am aware, wildlife and conservation has always had an image problem to most young people through their teenage years. It would be a good thing if someone has come up with away of promoting the subject that cuts through the surging hormones. Basically, a lot of children ARE interested in wildlife up to the age of 11 but then lose this interest until turning 30 something. I suspect it does not help that with the plethora of dubious first degrees now on offer that the once popular Biology degrees are not considered to be soft options anymore. May be the answer is to get Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus to wear conservation themed clothing although know the PR men, they would probably fluff the message. Like the Yardbirds credit BTW…I shall now expect subtle classic rock song quotes in your future posts a la Chris Packham and his punk rock quotes. 🙂

      1. “Like the Yardbirds credit BTW”

        I’m afraid they held no interest for me after God left. And quotes would be about Horny Toad Frogs, Fattenin’ Frogs for Snakes, Dirty Blue Runners, Crawlin’ Kingsnakes, Bluebirds Flying Down South For Me, Let the Buzzards Eat My Bones and Pickin’ Po’ Robin Clean. A bit obscure, unless you like folk like Peanut the Kidnapper, Littlehat Jones or Geechie Wiley.

        1. It occurs to me that there is a parallel here – my lifelong interest in blues music and musicians of the prewar erol was much assisted by the advent of the compact disc and the re-issue of many old master cuts and albums. So it is that digital media, the internet and search engines make access to information almost instantly accessible and this must influence young people with a passing interest to pursue their quest for knowledge further. Unless of course they don’t have an inquisitive streak and need feeding like digital cuckoos.

      2. Ian, if the rspb view that adult perceptions of nature are holding the children back then surely the blame lies there? But who influences the adults? Government, exploiters of the natural world, aliens from outer space or environmental NGOs? If the latter shouldn’t they start delivering? They are very good at sticking fingers and toes in leaking dykes but they could be doing a much better job of shouting out for help. Other organisations with something to sell don’t seem to have too much problem communicating their wares!

    3. at my school in Sarf Lunnun in the late 1950s we had flourishing natural history society, visits to N Kent marshes, Box hill etc. But didn’t have Botany, only Zoology A-level

      1. You were fortunate to have the NH Soc, JB. Our zoo master, fondly known as Pinhead, was only interested in Tipulidae and Molluscs, so that was all we got from him. But he was great entertainment, being unable to pronounce his Ls. So we knew a lot about Tipurids, Morruscs, and how popuration studies on aphids were conducted in rots of rittre cerruroid cyrinders. Apart from some zoo we learnt how to maintain dead-pan faces while the tears flowed. Happy daze ….

  7. Thank you Mark,it did take me a while to get used to them but after that I think they are very good.One thing to make a difference it seems by what I was told by a third party with no bias was that I should get German manufactured ones as opposed to German designed ones manufactured in China but obviously I do not know the truth in that,anyway if Minox see this they could comment.
    Surprised at one or two a bit critical of you doing this as it seems a win win all round,even hopefully giving you time to get more blogs ready and do other things assuming some take up the chance to guest blog.
    It must surely be difficult to find a subject almost every day and putting yourself in a position to be shot at each blog.

  8. I’m surprised Chris decided to take his binoculars – one of the things that would be fantastic on a REAL desert island is that the wildlife would be so tame. In my far distant youth I was inspired by Brian Nelson’s wonderful account of his research on Boobies on a real desert island – can’t remember the precise title but great to read as a wildlife travelogue and also as a great ornithological scientist at work.

  9. An enterprising offer by Minox and a good idea regarding the auction and guest blogs.

    Perhaps it could be made a bit more interesting if each contributor also provided a brief and polite answer to the question: ‘Which of the other organisations do you feel least deserves the public’s support and why ?’

    1. A 124 year old organisation whose efficacy amounts to a 79% disconnection amongst 8-12 year olds in 2013 would be high up the list! Good for a laugh though amongst the ageing school boys eh?

  10. So Mark, what we need to know is whether you will be giving the Minox bins the full workout at Cheltenham this weekend, perhaps building up the course bird list and spotting a few winners.

  11. Why not the Open Spaces Society? We’ve campaigned for commons for longer than any you’ve listed, and commons are good for wildlife, landscape and people!

  12. I was sad to hear from a Botany Professor that Botany is no longer offered in schools OR UNIVERSITIES in the UK.

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