Because of its climate and its lack of interesting terrain, Illinois is one state I've never had a great desire to go to, but somehow I ended up not only visiting but actually living there - not once, but twice! During the first stretch, I lived in Waukegan and worked for Motorola at their Libertyville complex; then I spent 18 months working in New Jersey, but when that company keeled over and died I ended up working for a company in Waukegan, of all possible places in this enormous country!
Fortunately, during my stay in New Jersey I had become a frequent visitor to swamps, photographing the birds, insects, reptiles and fungi I found there. Returning to Illinois, I was able to continue and expand these interests. Although I never saw a single lizard the whole time I was in Illinois, and only a few snakes, I was able to see lots of great birds, insects and fungi in the many swampy areas left behind after the giant Wisconsin glacier melted at the end of the last ice age, ten thousand years ago. All of these new interests made my second stay in Illinois much more interesting than the first, though after three or four years the flat landscape and nasty climate finally drove me away, this time probably for good.
I didn't have to go far to find interesting wildlife while I was in northern Illinois. The apartment complex in Gurnee where I lived backed onto a large area of wetlands, with lots of birds, insects and even beavers! Probably the most exciting discovery I made while stomping around was a group of adult sandhill cranes, which up to this date are the only species of crane I've seen in the wild. Shortly afterwards I came across a solitary juvenile sandhill crane in the same area, which chased away a large nesting Canada goose but allowed me to take some photos.
There were plenty of other interesting places to visit in Lake County, which is where Gurnee, Waukegan and Libertyville are located. To the east, adjoining Lake Michigan, is Dead River, a region of sand dunes and oak trees with a varied complement of wildlife including deer, chipmunks, turtles and insects, including spectacular tiger beetles with bright metallic green or bronze bodies, and many varieties of dragonfly. Heading west are a group of wetlands clustered together around western Lake County and eastern McHenry county, including the one which was perhaps my favorite, Volo Bog, as well as Chain O' Lakes park and Moraine Hills state park. You can see a whole page with the different butterflies of northern Illinois and a separate page of caterpillars of northern Illinois, which has many of these remarkably colored and shaped creatures, which are often much more showy and interesting than the moths or even butterflies they turn into.
Oh yes, and if you insist, then feel free to visit one of my pages about some city I visited in Illinois, what was it called again? Ah, yes, that's right - Chicago.