It had been a couple of years since we last flew the Michael Schmitz property near Mount Vernon, Wisconsin. But on a gorgeous early July day, we had a chance to revisit the 65-acre restored prairie and oak savanna. Appropriately named "Prato Belo", or "Beautiful Meadow", it undeniably lives up to its name.
Gathering some drone video footage over Prato Belo (below).
Schmitz purchased this property 19 years ago and has been involved in its restoration ever since. His land stewardship practices have gained much attention as well. Not only has he transformed the approximately 20 acres of old pasture into oak savanna, and pushed another 40 acres of Conservation Reserve Program land into prairie, he also manages his property holistically, without herbicides, using controlled burns, inter-seeding, and a whole lot of intensive manual care.
During our previous visit we mapped and shot video on a small portion of Prato Belo, prior to full bloom. This time, however, we conducted one full mapping mission and more video, during the prairie bloom. The resulting imagery offers Schmitz a highly detailed contiguous orthophoto of the entire property, along with video footage that highlights various areas of the prairie and the species of prairie plants. Utilizing this information, he will be able to more effectively manage his current and future restoration efforts.
Mapping, photo, and video operations taking flight (below).
Of the variety prairie plants inhabiting Prato Belo, the butterfly milkweeds, pale purple coneflowers, oxeye sunflowers (false sunflower), black-eyed Susans, common yarrow, and purple prairie clover were gorgeous during full bloom. Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators were also out in full force. Be sure to check out the video (link below) for a drones eye view of the prairie.
Click here to view the video of "Prato Belo Revisited."
A portion of the map (in progress, below) showing the overall view and areas of interest.
Prato Belo, full map (below). The orthomosaic image was stitched together from over 450 individual photographs, flown at a height of 275' (AGL). 10' elevation contours were created from a separate LiDAR derived digital elevation model (DEM).